Michigan family loses life savings due to elaborate license scam

A Michigan family has lost their entire life savings due to an elaborate scam involving her state license.

According to Attorney General Dana Nessel, the Michigan couple was cleaned out by the scammers who knew the woman's Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) license number and were able to convince her she was in danger of losing her license.

Nessel's office said the scam took place over the course of several days and involved three different men who posed as a LARA investigator, a chief investigator from LARA, and an FBI agent. According to Nessel, the woman is a physical therapist licensed in the state of Michigan and the three men convinced her that her license was in danger of "immediate temporary suspension".

The three men said she needed to go to the nearest UPS store to receive a notification in writing. The victim said the men provided her a document that appeared to have an official LARA letterhead and included her license number.

The man who posed as the chief investigator said he was investigating a drug trafficking case involving her license and that she was associated with 15 bank accounts that laundered $2.4 million. 

The three men all got on the phone with her at one point and gave the option of getting a lawyer and being in jail for at least six months, without bail - or cooperate with their "investigation" by signing a federal bond agreement with the Department of Justice. 

The woman was convinced by the three men that this was legitimate and followed their instructions, without telling anyone - including her husband. She made a wire transfer for her 'bond' and was given an "application" to allegedly reinstate her license. 

Her husband eventually discovered the transfer, police were called and confirmed it was a scam. But it was too late.

The family was unable to get any of their money back.

"This kind of scheme shows the depth and breadth bad actors will go to while robbing well-intentioned people who are fearful of the results should they not comply," said Nessel.  "Do NOT fall for anyone who calls and threatens you unless you provide them with some form of cash – in this case, a hefty wife transfer.  Be alert, be skeptical, and hang up, no matter how often they reach out to you.  And by all means, immediately stop any payments and alert local law enforcement to report them.  You may also wish to report this conduct to our office as it helps us understand what scams are circulating so that we can warn the public about them."

According to Nessel's office, this isn't the first scam of this type. In the fall of 2020, several licensees encountered spam emails or sites impersonating LARA. Director Orlene Hawks said licensees should be cautious of unsolicited requests for information and if you suspect fraud, immediately report it.

"No one from our office in LARA will ever reach out to you and threaten to suspend your license," said Hawks. "Our investigators have teamed up with Michigan State Police to put a stop to as many scams as possible – but we need our licensees to be alert to the possibility that the next text, email, or phone call they get about their license may be someone trying to scam them."