CVP EXCLUSIVE: An Emerson man conned into thinking he’d be arrested by the IRS sent more than $10,000 to phone scammers yesterday before police called by his worried family found him in Ridgewood.
Using cash he withdrew from his bank, the 28-year-old victim bought Green Dot Money Pak cards from several stores and sent their numbers to the scammers over the course of eight hours, Emerson Police Officer Joseph Alasio told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon.
“The scammer kept him on the phone the whole time,” Alasio said. “They told him he’d be charged with a crime if he hung up.”
The thief, who spoke with an Asian accent, had just enough personal information about the victim to “give them some amount of credibility with him,” the officer said.
A search ended when Emerson and Ridgewood police stopped the victim’s van on East Ridgewood Avenue after he’d been to a nearby Rite Aid ( see photos ).
“It’s a shame what these thieves do to people,” Alasio said. “It’s becoming way too commonplace.”
The thieves continue to do serious damage because many of the victims aren’t aware that the IRS will NEVER call anyone for money. The government also doesn’t email anyone for Social Security numbers, birth dates, bank account numbers, passwords or other personal identification.
“The first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail,” the Internal Revenue Service says.
Local police departments say they’ve been inundated with reports from local victims of tax fraud and IRS scam calls.
Two weeks ago, a Leonia resident lost several thousand dollars in the same type of scam. Earlier this year, two New Milford victims each lost more than $5,000.
The way it works:
“The victim receives a call and they are told they owe back taxes, fees or fines to the IRS. and if they do not make an immediate payment using a Green Dot MoneyPak card, they will be arrested or deported,” Leonia Police Chief Thomas Rowe said.
“Once the scam artist is provided with the Green Dot MoneyPak serial number, [he or she is] able to transfer the funds onto a prepaid debit card. Once the transfer is completed, the victim has lost [his or her] money.
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If you think you owe the IRS money, call and ask the agency directly (800-829-1040). If you get a scam call, notify your local police department immediately. They don’t mind. That’s what they do.
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The con artists sound convincing, too.
“They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling,” the IRS said. “They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an ‘urgent’ callback request.
“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”
Some are told their driver’s licenses and credit cards have been suspended or frozen.
They’re then told they can settle the problem by paying a certain amount and are directed to buy Green Dot money packs in various amounts — after which they give the caller the serial numbers of each card.
Some of the scammers have used fake IRS badge numbers or use common names / surnames to identify themselves. They may even know the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number, which can be retrieved from various bills or through online account hacking.
They can make the IRS toll-free number appear on caller ID and may follow up with an email.
FIVE THINGS THE IRS DOESN’T DO:
- Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice;
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe;
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card;
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone;
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
Remember, too: The IRS doesn’t use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue.
INSET PHOTO, TOP: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Correspondent Boyd A. Loving, who contributed to this story
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