By Dale Gribow
Last Friday Oct 28, 2016 our Desert Sun reported the Attorney General just charged 56 people in a $300 Million fraud scheme. Workers stationed at “boiler room” call centers in India posing as federal and state agents would threaten the victims with a scripted message. I too received one of these calls where my phone register showed a call from the Riverside Sheriffs and they said they were on their way to arrest me for not paying taxes. I called my friend Stan Sniff, the Sheriff of Riverside County, who assured me it was part of an elaborate scam.
The scheme had a scripted caller saying they were IRS or Immigration authorities calling re an outstanding (fictitious) fine, immigration warrant or a phony tax debt. The scam involved a network of telephone call centers in India using personal information they had illegally obtained to scare the victim. US coconspirators laundered the money using wire transfer and debit cards.
They would prey upon the elderly and immigrants… in other words our neighbors. The victims were told to go to Walmart, for instance, and buy debit cards that would be loaded with a few thousand dollars. They were then instructed to read the card number to the caller.
An 85 year old woman was threatened with arrest if she did not pay a phony outstanding tax bill. The scammers would often ask for a “good faith” payment to stop their imminent arrest. When I got the call I was told a patrol car was on its way to arrest me. As an attorney I should have known better but I too was scared that I had unknowingly done something wrong.
Numerous fraud schemes involving mortgage assistance, outstanding tax collection, foreign government assistance and even to companies promising to return lost money are rampant throughout the US. The scammers always request money to be paid up front for illegitimate services, or the threat of arrest, eviction or property seizure.
A common scheme involves a caller who claims to be a member of law enforcement, or an employee of the court system. The victim is told s/he has a warrant for failing to appear for jury duty. The caller demands payment for the warrant via credit card information, or a Green Dot card. The scammer keeps the victim on the phone while he or she travels to a store to obtain the requested card.
The caller instructs the victim not to tell anyone with whom they are talking. After obtaining the serial number of the debit card the money deposited is immediately removed by the caller.
No Riverside County Court or Sheriff’s Department employee will ever contact the public and ask for financial information or payment in lieu of attending court proceedings, or to make up for failure to appear for jury duty. US Government Agencies do not make these kind of calls.
You would receive a letter/notice in the mail if that was the case. However with the holidays approaching these phone/fraud scams will certainly go up.
For more information regarding other scams use this link www.riversidesheriff.org/crime/fraud.asp
Please contact me with ideas for future legal columns at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-837-7500.