When a 59-year-old Sonoma woman got a phone call from the IRS, telling her she owed $10,688 in back taxes from “previous mis-filings,” she was instantly intimidated.
The agent on the phone warned her she had one hour to resolve the issue or police would come to her house and arrest her. The agent, who said his name was David Meyers, then told her she could clear the tax penalty by paying an attorney $2,000 to resolve the case. He instructed her to leave the house and buy four Green Dot MoneyPaks, pre-loadable cash cards on sale at numerous retailers including CVS and Rite Aid.
The woman did as instructed, putting $500 on each MoneyPak card, then called back David Meyers and gave him the numbers on the cards, which can be converted into immediate cash.
The woman then got suspicious and called police, who quickly determined that the call was fraudulent. They tracked the card numbers to a bank account and then sought a court order to open records on that account. During the investigation they discovered that the phone number used by “David Meyers” was the subject of numerous previous complaints.
The scam has reportedly been used actively across the country in recent weeks, despite the fact that the Green Dot website warns, “Use your MoneyPak number only with businesses on our approved list. If anyone else asks for your MoneyPak number or information from your receipt, it’s probably a scam ... Green Dot is not responsible for paying you back ... The funds are not insured against loss.”
And a Consumer Reports story on the scams reported a case in which a victim was told he would be handcuffed and thrown in jail if he didn’t pay the demanded cash.
Meanwhile, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has posted a four-minute video detailing identity theft fraud, including an interview with a top national cybertheft investigator who interviewed a master cyber criminal known as “Ray” whom he called the “the most dangerous identity thief in America.”
“Ray” was then locked up in the Sonoma County jail after 20 years of cybercrime without a single prior arrest.
He was caught by Det. Tony King of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, who conducted a dogged investigation and eventually learned Ray’s sophisticated tricks, many of them practiced during peak tax season when incoming and outgoing mail is full of personal identity data.
One lesson – don’t send or receive important mail – especially tax return letters – in unprotected mailboxes.