Scams – More Diabolical Then We Thought!
This is a very interesting and troubling story about how innocent Americans are being exposed to a very diabolical scam very difficult to avoid. It is another one of the IRS scams but this one is a serious problem to many unsuspecting people, especially the elderly.
While I was working in my garage building a cabinet for our deck area to store our gardening supplies, my neighbor came to me asking if I would dial a number for him on my smart phone. He appeared to be a little distressed. Needless to say, I was a little surprised by that, but I also know he and his wife are originally from Armenia. The wife speaks much better English then he does so with her not available I offered to help him. The couple have been in the states for decades and he is since retired from working with a supermarket chain in New York State. He also experienced a stroke recently and has some handicaps that do not permit him to speak very well, understand others, and he has lost some ability to write or dial a phone. I have helped him before on many occasions for all sorts of things and saw no problem with helping him then.
I dialed the number but it did not work. It was missing a number. He was trying to recall the number but was confused. He then asked me to come with him to his house. He found the number in his personal phone book and I dialed it. It was his accountant but we could only get an answering machine. I then learned what the sense of urgency was about. He explained that his wife had gone to get some money transferred based on an alarming phone call she received. It was an IRS scam!
She was told that there is an IRS bill that requires to be paid that day since the IRS had gotten a court order to send the police to her house that day. The caller explained that she needed to get the money sent today in order to get the court order stopped. They explained that the money they owed the IRS totaled $4900 covering the years 2009 to 2014. She had no car so she walked over to the open mall nearby to get the money; that was what was initially explained to me. I could not understand a lot about what the husband was trying to tell me, but I realized quickly that they were experiencing a scam. I had heard about it on television local news programs where they explained that the IRS never calls for money. But that is all they explained. What the wife actually heard on the phone was quite frightening.
She was told not to tell anyone, or speak to anyone or call anyone. She had to go immediately to get the money she needed to stop the police from coming to her house to arrest her and her husband. I only knew at the time that she had walked to the mall on foot. The husband said she was going somewhere next door to the shoe store which turned out to be Broadway Shoes. I told him we needed to go find her right away. I drove him to the mall but when we were approaching the store, her husband pointed to several stores saying it was in one of those stores, about 6 or 8 of them next to Broadway Shoes. I began to think, none of those stores could do what he claimed she was trying to do. Across the parking area and a street from some of those stores was an Office Depot. As we drove by he pointed to that store. I immediately stopped at the curb, put on my flashers and went into the store. I meet the store manager right away and asked him if he did wires. He said no. I left the store.
I asked the husband if they had a bank nearby. He stated yes, Wells Fargo. I knew there was a Well Fargo in the Mall area and drove there. I looked for his wife all around the branch; I did not see her. Since he could not speak English clearly and he could not write his name or spell it, the clerk at the counter could not find his account. The idea I thought would be to get him to block his account. He had not brought his wallet or any ID with him. The only thing I could do would be to drive him back home to get his ID and checkbook.
But when we arrived home, his wife was outside walking around looking for him. She was reluctant to talk to me because she was told not to talk with anyone. I explained she was being scammed into sending money. I then learned what they had asked her to do. In order to stop the court order, she had to get the money issued in I-Tune gift cards. She was explained that she had to do that so they could be sure she had valid funds. She had walked over to the Office Depot according to the scammer’s directions. She told them she could only get $2500 so she bought 5 gift cards at $500 each. And then I found out she had already given the gift card numbers to the scammer over the phone. We rushed to Office Depot to see if they could stop the cards. The same manager said no, they are activated and are then good as cash. But he mentioned she had used a CITI credit card to purchase the gift cards. What to do next?
We called CITI Credit Card services to get the payments stopped. We spent over 30 minutes on the phone talking to a clerk who went over the process over and over explaining the rules. We had trouble getting her to stop the payments. Eventually she said she could close the card down and issue another. But then stated that their Fraud Investigations would need to investigate. We had to ask several times whether the payments would be stopped. Finally she said yes. She had already explained that the 5 transactions of $500 each were already pending to be drawn against her account. We finally had to demand a manager and that took another 5 to 10 minutes. We kept explaining we need to call I-tunes to see if they could reverse the gift cards. Finally, the manager came on the line and assured us the payments would not process, that the account was closed and a new card would be issued.
We called I-Tunes and they told us the cards were already processed and they could do nothing. I find that odd because we were reporting a scam and the only the way the scammers could get paid would be to buy products from I-Tunes. They could have stopped any shipment or transaction from completing. I spent all afternoon trying to help them with this problem. I was amazed at how diabolical these scammers could be. It demonstrated to me that they must be doing this often. We then returned to her him home and since they routinely drink Vodka, they pulled out two shot glasses and filled them up. The wife also presented me with a bottle of wine as a gift for helping them. But the story didn’t end there. The whole time we were on the phone talking to CITI Credit Card services while at Office Depot, the wife’s cellphone kept ringing constantly. We knew it was the scammers because the caller ID was 911. I had to use my phone to call CITI because hers was constantly ringing non-stop. No one gets 911 calls to their cellphone like that. I knew they were using a bogus caller id.
While sitting there drinking a shot of vodka, her phone rang. It was the scammer, again. I said, tell them to talk to your husband and she gave the phone to me. It was a man with a strong accent from the somewhere overseas. It seemed Middle Eastern or from India. His English was quite good. HE WAS AFTER THE REMAINING money! I got into a lengthy conversation with him and then I was able to learn how amazingly diabolical and persistent they can be.
He asked for the numbers to the remaining cards since he claimed they had only received $1000. I knew that was false because $2500 had already be processed through I-Tunes. I asked if I could verify this was not a scam. He insisted it was legitimate. I then asked him who he worked for. He stated the IRS. I asked where is his office? He stated Washington, DC. I then asked where is he calling from? He said, NW Washington, DC. I asked what his address was, he gave me what looked like a bogus address.(147 Akim Blvd, NW, Washington, D.C.) I asked, is that your office or your home? He stated it was his home. I asked how the IRS would let him make these calls from his home. He got a little upset at me asking all these questions. And then he asked me if I knew Obama. I said, of course I do. He stated: he works for the Obama Department. I then stated, the IRS doesn’t have an Obama Department. He began to get more upset with me.
He then asked me if I knew Osama Bin Laden. I answered yes and said we killed him. He is dead. He then said he had Osama bin Ladens’ wife working with him. I told him I didn’t believe him. But he said he would put her on the phone. Then, I was shocked to hear, in a slow, smooth female voice, Hello, I am the wife of Osama Bin Laden. I asked, how do I know you are who you say you are? She repeats the same line. I asked, what is your first name? She asked, why do you need to know? I explained I needed to verify that she was really his wife. What is your first name? She states: SAMA; Sama Bin Laden! I was amazed at the length to which they would go to try to get the rest of the money.
I then asked her if she knew when her husband died. She then asked again, why do you need to know? I explained I needed to verify her identity I asked her several times. She refused to say and got a little angry with me. Then she stated that her son, Osama Bin Laden’s son, was going to rule American People. She then stated to me, “Go fuck yourself! I explained; you are a scammer because that could never happen. The original man came back on the line and the first thing I hear from him is, “Are you going to give me the numbers.” The numbers to the I-tune cards. I was amazed at the persistence.
I then said, OK. I asked for one of the cards from the Armenian couple. I looked at the number on one of the cards and began reading the number but replacing each letter with another false letter. When I got to the 4th letter, he stopped me saying that that was not a real number. That I was lying to him. I said, so you know a lot about these numbers, you are definitely a scammer. I then said, that I am working with the FBI and we have been tracking this call and we are coming to get you right now. He claimed I was lying. I explained I was not, that we know where he is right now and we are coming. And by the way, I want you to stop calling these people and take them off your calling list. He said, you are not the FBI and that he is removing the number from their list.
Telling these older people the IRS doesn’t make calls like this is not enough. They scare the hell out of them with the term court order and police coming. Back taxes due from 2009 to 2014 which are files they probably have no quick access to. They then specifically ask them to buy I-tune cards which are instantly activated at point of purchase and to give them the numbers over the phone to verify they have the funds and to stop a court order from being acted on by police. Telling them they cannot talk to or call anyone at all, the use the amount “$4900” because the stores are required to fill out paperwork with the customer if the amount is $5000 or more. They even tell the person to answer no questions from store employees; just buy gift cards and give them the numbers over the phone.
They also advised the lady that she had to do this because to fight the court order in court would cost her as much $20,000. They later told her it would be $70,000 to fight it in court. They used 911 as the caller id. You can’t block that number on your phone. When I was on the phone, the caller told me his return phone number was 911. Unbelievable the extent these scammers will go to victimize innocent people. People only get a letter from the IRS if there is a problem with their taxes and they get a good length of time to challenge it. It gives people time to have their tax preparer research the problem and challenge it.
How do we get this information out? We need something like a 911 reverse call to advise them of this scam. We need to put the word out over the weather alert systems that interrupts their tv broadcast. Young people should immediately call every older person they know to let them know about this IRS scam. Banks, credit card companies, any business that sell gift cards needs to have warning card to be read by customers buying hundreds of dollars in gift cards. TV news programs nationwide need to be required to include detailed warnings about scammers calls and the Gift Card gimmick. The moment they buy the card, they are cash and the scammers can cash them instantly. The money is quickly lost. Stores need to be more proactive in selling cards. Thousands of dollars from one retailer like I-Tunes makes it pretty obvious something may be wrong. Protecting customers should be more important than getting the sales they hope to get by gift card sales. A 5K cut off just kicks the loss by credit card companies back to their customers in annual fees and credit card interest charges.
The failure of financial institutions and retailers from doing more to protect the victims of these scams is shameful. Being more concerned with sales rather than our elderly being ripped off by scammers using their products as a tool to steal money needs to be addressed, and now. TV programs need to routinely run advisories often, not just once in a while to make it look like they care. There are a ton of scams like this. We need a serious program run to explain how these scams work. We have programs like American Greed that reports on the scams ordinary citizens pull off to rip off their fellow citizens. We need a program like that to report on how much scamming is really going on.
The way this scam I refer to went down, tells me they have been doing this for a very long time. We should be smart enough to stop it but the key players whose products are being used in the scam do very little. They simple expect all our elderly to be smart enough to avoid it. There is no way, a normal elderly person could possibly avoid such a diabolical scheme to steal what little money they have left to live on. AND, where is our government. They don’t get contributions from the elder so they really don’t care either. All retirement homes should do routine briefings of their residents and their relatives so the word gets out more broadly.
I am copy writing the idea for a TV program that routinely shares how all these scams work. It is June 21, 2016. I want part of the income because I am trying with this writing get something done now about all the scamming we are witnessing. I am going to contact and send this writing to everyone I can think of, post it on line and send it to everyone who sends me an email. I will send it to Snopes also so they do not have to do lengthy research to see if this is real. Just send me an email and I will gladly talk to anyone. We need to all get something done to stop this from happening.
We are always hearing “We need to fix this so it NEVER happens again” like mass shooting but nothing really happens. It keeps happening. We need to try to fix this as much as possible because regardless of what we do, there will always be mass shootings and scams of innocent people. We just need to do better slowing it down, hopefully to a crawl.