Phone scam targets immigrants

Beware of crank call that intend to rob you blind.

The local 49th Precinct is spreading word of a deception scam conning immigrants out of their money. The untraceable calls come from a person pretending to be the IRS and explaining the victim has unsettled debts, said the Four-Nine’s Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson.

“They tell the person he’s been underpaying his taxes,” said Johnson. “They then make them take out a large amount of money.”

Threats of deportation and arrest compelled victims to comply with the callers demands.

Tracking the subject can be a difficult task since those victimized never meet the crook.

Money is never exchanged physically but electronically, with the scammer forcing petrified callers to deposit withdrawn funds to a Green Dot pre-paid debit card.

“They make them put $500 on the card and make them read the serial numbers,” said Johnson. “The victim never sees the perpetrator. It’s all done on the phone.”

The serial numbers allow anyone to transfer the funds from that account to the thief’s, said Johnson.

The Four-Nine became aware of this scam this week, with the victim, a local storeowner, kept on the phone upwards of two hours while the thief bilked him out of $3500 in funds.

The scheme has been reported within the 52nd Precinct covering Bedford Park, Fordham, Kingsbridge, Norwood and University Heights.

Police are now asking locals to be aware of who is calling, particularly someone pretending to be Uncle Sam.

Johnson stopped by the local Community Board 11 meeting to offer simple advice–”no government agency will ever threaten you with arrest over the phone.”

This is the second type of deception crime happening in recent weeks within the Four-Nine’s borders. The latest happened early this month after a pair of thieves posing as city Department of Environmental Protection inspectors raided an elderly woman’s house. No one has been arrested.

Anyone suspecting fraud can simply hang up and report the matter to the Four-Nine’s Crime Prevention Unit at 718-918-2026.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383