Every once in a while people ask me, ‘What’s the biggest problem we have in Oro Valley?’
If we were to go by dollar amount the most obvious is answer is without a doubt fraud. Let’s talk about the top two that we’re taking reports on right now.
How it works
You get a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. They say you owe back taxes. You send them money via Western Union and/or Greendot Money Card. Simple, right?
If you refuse to pay or question it, they will start to threaten you with arrest. In fact, the more you resist, the greater the threats increase. I heard one report recently that the scammers kept the victim on the phone while she went to the store, obtained the Green Dot card, and paid the scammers. They threatened to come and arrest her—right there on the spot—if she hung up.
What to do next
According to the IRS.gov website, here’s what you should do:
• If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
• If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
• You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
It’s important to note that the IRS communicates via postal mail. If you have someone on the phone claiming to be an IRS official, the chances are very good it’s a scam. If you’re not sure you can contact the IRS or your local police department to report the incident.
How it works
You get a phone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild. They start off saying, “Grandpa/Grandma?” and you, thinking the voice sounds like your grandchild Timmy replies asking, “Timmy, is that you?” They say, “Why yes, it is me, Timmy! I need money…”
Believe it or not people will pretend to be relatives to get money. This includes lying about being a grandchild who is in desperate need of money. Some of the reasons they need money include:
• Traveling in a foreign country and arrested.
• Need money for a medical issue.
• Some other reason.
To make sure you don’t check on their story and bust it they ask you to not tell anyone
Of course, this is a bogus phone call.
Now some of these guys are getting extremely good at obtaining background information on their targets. We saw one case a while back where the grandparent got a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild, knew the grandchild’s name and even addressed the grandparent using slang for “grandpa” from their particular home country.
This may come as a shock but the fraudsters will want the victim to send money using Western Union or Green Dot money cards.
What to do next
Again, this one is simple: hang up. And if you’re worried make some phone calls and verify that the grandkid is safely at school, and not sitting in jail in Mexico.
The fact is the bad guys have a wealth of information at their disposal and digging up detailed background info on their targets is quite easy today. In fact it’s only getting easier with the more data breaches that occur, and the more we share our lives online through social networking sites like Facebook.
Red flags you should look for are:
• Inbound phone calls where the caller is asking for money.
• Asking for money via Western Union, Green Dot cards or Some other medium that makes it easy to move money.
• A sense of urgency almost always accompanies these. Whether it’s from a grandchild pleading for money, or the IRS telling you you’re going to be arrested, these guys work best when you don’t think and just respond.
(Editor’s Note: Elijah Woodward has been an Officer with the Oro Valley Police Department since 2007. He is experienced in frauds of all shapes and sizes, and works to bring information about the current crime trends in Oro Valley to citizens so they can better protect themselves.)