Phone scam targets immigrants

Beware of the crank call that can rob you blind.

“The victim never sees the perpetrator. It’s all done on the phone,” said 49th Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson, spreading word of a deception scam conning immigrants out of their money.

The untraceable calls come from a person pretending to be from the IRS and explaining to the victim that they have unsettled debts, said 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 compel victims to comply with the callers demands.

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

Money is simply exchanged electronically, with the scammer forcing scared callers to deposit withdrawn funds to a Green Dot pre-paid debit card.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 serial numbers allow anyone to wire funds from that account to the thief’s, said Johnson.

The 49th first heard of the scam this week, with the victim, a local storeowner, kept on the phone upwards of two hours as the thief bilked him out of $3500 in funds.

The scheme has also been reported within the 52nd Precinct covering a portion of the northwest Bronx.

It’s also been picked up by the state, with Gov. Cuomo calling the scam “dishonest” while urging everyone to “be mindful of these scam artists and encourage anyone who thinks they may have been targeted to immediately contact the proper authorities.”

Though it’s unconfirmed in the Bronx, authorities report scam calls are originating from a 530 area code tied to California.

In some cases, scammers “spoof” a call – a technique that allows a their phone number to appear as a legitimate government phone number on the victim’s ID screen.

Local 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 first one happened early this month after a pair of thieves posing as city Department of Environmental Protection inspectors entered an elderly woman’s house and stole valuables. No one has been arrested.

Anyone suspecting fraud can 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

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