A North Bay widow said she was trying to honor her late husband. But scammers on TikTok stepped in to try and rip her off.
Since her husband John died in Nov. 2019, Petaluma resident Jocelyn Cronin said she went looking for support from other widows. She found it on TikTok.
“A widower’s community on TikTok, it’s amazing. On the whole 99%, it’s amazing. Supportive,” she said.
Last month, Cronin saw a TikTok video about how to honor a loved one who, like her paramedic firefighter husband, had been cremated.
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She said that commented on the video, and instantly received a reply. A supposed artist, also a widow, was offering to make her a portrait using John’s ashes.
“And I put them in a ‘if it fits, it ships’ box, and sent them to an address in Georgia,” Cronin said.
Days later, Cronin’s contact from TikTok sent her an email from a fake account.
“It said, ‘We have seized your loved one’s ashes and portrait, that is illegal. You’re going to need to pay $3,756 to get them back.’ That’s when I knew I’d been scammed,” she said.
Cronin has refused to pay the ransom, but the scammers have been relentless, calling and texting her repeatedly, demanding payment, trolling her on TikTok and threatening to destroy the ashes if she doesn’t comply.
Cronin posted a video to TikTok, warning others about the scam.
Concerned for her safety, Cronin contacted the Petaluma Police Department. She said that she has also tried to contact the FBI and local Georgia police to report the crime.
Now all that Cronin has left are some remaining ashes in the urn over her mantel, and inside her necklace.
“Some people say well he’s not the ashes, he’s all around you. I know that. But you know what? I was entrusted with those ashes. Not to be desecrated. That’s desecration of human remains. That’s kidnapping of human remains. That’s extortion. And that’s what kills me,” she said.
Petaluma police told NBC Bay Area Friday that they have been in contact with Cronin, and they’ve updated their scam alerts list to include this one, hoping that no one else falls for it.