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Woman loses $11.4K to IRS scammer's threats

Published 1:22 pm, Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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A 25-year-old woman was scammed out of $11,415 by a criminal posing as an IRS agent, police said Wednesday.

The criminal called the Fairfield woman, identified himself as an IRS agent and said she owed money to the federal agency and that her car, house and bank accounts would be seized unless she submitted payment immediately, police said. The caller told the woman to withdraw money from her bank and buy Green Dot MoneyPak cards, which the caller can then redeem once he has identification numbers on the cards, police said.

"She was instructed to keep her phone in her pocket and not to provide the teller with any information regarding the withdrawal" from the bank, said Deputy Police Chief Christopher Lyddy. The woman, who withdrew money several times from the bank, then went to several locations in Fairfield County to buy Green Dot MoneyPak cards in varying amounts that totaled $8,000, police said. She then gave the caller identification numbers on those cards, police said.

The woman then received a phone call from another person who also claimed to be an IRS agent and who said she still owed money to the IRS. She was told to make payment immediately and she bought more Green Dot MoneyPak cards and gave him the identification numbers, police said.

"The second caller appeared to be a different individual but also purporting to be an IRS agent," Lyddy said.

Ultimately, the woman provided the two callers with identification numbers from $11,415 worth of Green Dot MoneyPak cards, police said. Lyddy said the woman was so afraid that the IRS would obtain an arrest warrant for her that she complied with the callers' instructions.

All that a criminal needs to obtain cash from a GreenDot MoneyPak card is an identification number from it, police said. A criminal can then go to a store and use that identification number to buy debit cards which he can then use to get cash from an ATM that doesn't have video surveillance, police said. It's then nearly impossible to trace the money, police said.

Police Capt. Josh Zabin said criminals make these kinds of fraudulent phone calls from the Internet and Lyddy said criminals can redirect phone calls to a real phone number before connecting with a potential victim. "The redirecting of the phone number is illegal," Lyddy said.

Zabin said scammers often try to use area codes out of Washington, D.C., so the calls seem legitimate.

"We are seeing an increase in the number of fraudulent phone calls of this nature," Lyddy said. "The IRS will not call you. If you receive a call from an IRS agent, report it to the police immediately. Under no circumstances should you ever provide funds via Green Dot cards or Western Union to anyone you don't personally know."

"If the IRS has an interest in you, they're going to send you a registered letter and ask you to come to the federal building in Bridgeport," Lyddy said.

The woman was scammed Friday, but did not report the incident to police until Tuesday.