Scammers posing as U.S. Marshals, IRS agents duping unsuspecting victims

Composite image | Photos by mokee81/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Junce/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two telephone fraud schemes are making the rounds in Utah involving scammers posing as U.S. Marshals or IRS agents demanding money.

US. Marshals scam

There have been several reports in Utah of individuals receiving phone calls from an individual claiming to be a U.S. Marshal or other law enforcement officers, according to an alert issued by Deputy Marshal Dan Juergens with the U.S. Marshals Service’s Utah District.

The caller tells the unsuspecting individual that he or she has failed to appear for jury duty and that a warrant has been issued for their arrest and they must pay the “bail” amount to avoid going to jail.

“The callers are very convincing and intimidating and prey on victim fears,” Juergens said in the alert. “The victims are generally older adults and afraid they are going to be arrested.”

To pay the “bail,” the victim is instructed to go to their bank and withdraw a sum of money ranging from $300-3,000. They are told to purchase a prepaid credit or debit card and call them back with the card number. In other cases, the fraudster makes them stay on the phone until the transaction is completed.

Stock image | Photo by Tuan_azizi/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The victims are told that if they hang up, “it will be considered obstruction of justice and that additional charges will be filed,” Juergens stated.

The U.S. Marshals Office is also asking for assistance from any store employees who may come in contact with individuals affected by the scam, who may appear in duress while buying a prepaid debit card or who are on a cell phone while purchasing the card.

When encountering such a customer, store employees are being instructed to ask the customer ‘Did a police officer tell you to buy this card?’

If they say ‘Yes,’ tell them that no law enforcement officer will ever instruct anyone to purchase a prepaid debit card and that the call is a scam.

“Please help to identify and protect these customers,” the U.S. Marshals alert states.

The agency advises not to provide any additional personal information to the caller and to contact the Utah District of the U.S. Marshals Service at 801-524-5693 to confirm or report the call as a scam. You can also call your local law enforcement agency.

IRS scam is back

Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents seem to be making a comeback — these scams have remained on the IRS’ “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams since 2015.

Scammers demand money from the unsuspecting individuals and then threaten them with police arrest, deportation or license revocation if they fail to comply. In some cases, the fraudsters demand payment using credit cards, gift cards or even iTunes gift cards.

A reader sent a message to St. George News reporting a suspicious call they received Friday and provided a transcript of what the schemers said during the call. The transcript reads as follows:

The reason we are calling you is that the IRS has a lawsuit against you and there is a non-bailable warrant for your arrest. Contact us immediately at our number.

The number from which it originated was 425-689-0235. According to the IRS, these scammers are able to alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling and use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers, often leaving “urgent” callback requests.

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • 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.

If a scammer calls, consumers can go to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center website and report the suspicious phone number.

There are times when the good guys win and scammers pay for their misdeeds.

Such was the case in July when 21 scam ringleaders in eight states were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for using India-based call centers to defraud thousands of Americans out of hundreds of millions of dollars using an IRS scam, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement released July 20.

Operating out of five Indian call centers, the fraudsters bombarded U.S. households claiming to be tax or immigration officials and instructed the victims to either pay or face arrest or deportation by immediately wiring funds or calling back with prepaid debit card numbers.

“The sentences imposed on these defendants validate our efforts to bring to justice scammers who defraud taxpayers by impersonating employees of the Internal Revenue Service,” Inspector General J. Russell George said in the statement.

The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

  • Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be a person or entity that is trusted, so don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, phone call or email.
  • Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call” or the phone number related to the scam.
  • Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up.
  • Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers or even a prize that you must first pay taxes or fees to receive. Don’t give them any money — they will probably take the money and disappear.
  • Consider how you pay.  Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but other payment methods don’t, including wire transfers and reloadable cards.
  • Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
  • Hurry up and pay. Another weapon scammers use is to create a false deadline, so if pressured to make a decision, hang up.

To report suspicious calls, mailings or emails, go to the FTC by calling its consumer hot line at 877-382-4357. Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Scams can also be reported to your local law enforcement agency.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • utahdiablo October 28, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    I always tell the scammers to come on by to arrest me and we’ll have a “Shotgun Wedding”…”>)

  • KR567 October 29, 2018 at 8:41 am

    I sure hope this article doesn’t offend anybody wouldn’t want to see any crying or whining about the horrible picture that came with the article ..you never know how sensitive some people are !

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