WINTER HAVEN (FOX 13) - An elaborate scam tricking victims into downloading what they believe is anti-spyware onto their home computers is circulating Polk County, and investigators fear it could be going global.
"I had tried to download Windows 10 on the computer and it was not downloading correctly," one Polk County victim told FOX 13 on Wednesday.
Tangled in a web of tech problems, the 71-year old victim, who doesn't want to be identified, turned to an online company to cure his computer woes this past March. He was able to use his computer again, and he paid for the service.
"Then he told me I needed a special anti-virus protection. I bought 5-years of protection for $499.95," the victim explained.
Months later, he got a call from the same tech advisor.
"He calls me up and tells me they're getting error signals from my computer. They monitored it every month to make sure nothing was wrong. Said he needed to get into my computer to correct the problems," the victim said.
The victim gave the advisor access. Before he knew it, through a series of transfers and withdrawals, his savings account was wiped clean and his credit cards were maxed out on cash advances.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says 49-year old Robert Ratkovcic was the so-called computer guy. He's now under arrest, but Judd fears he's just one of a team of scammers with ties to Thailand.
"Tell your parents or your grandparents: trust no one online," Judd said. "These con men, con women, con people, convicts are after your money, every moment of the day, online."
Judd says investigators believe Ratkovcic's team could be tied to cases across the country, with as much as $1.2 million at stake. It's money many aren't counting on ever seeing again.
"Robbing me or anyone else over the phone or the computer is no different that walking up to you and pulling a gun on you and taking the cash money right out of your pocket," the victim said.
Sheriff Judd believes there are many more local victims who might be embarrassed to come forward. He says in order to build this case to it's maximum potential, he needs those victims to call the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
He says if you're ever suspicious of a monetary interaction online, immediately stop what you're doing and call your local law enforcement office.