A senior citizen was bilked out of $4,000 Tuesday when a man claiming to be an Internal Revenue Service agent conned her into buying several Apple iTunes cards and giving him the card numbers.
The woman’s husband began calling her early Monday morning but was unable to reach her. Worried, he contacted the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, and investigators found that her credit card had been used Tuesday at Statesboro’s Wal-Mart Supercenter for a $2,000 purchase and again at a nearby Walgreen’s for $2,000, according to Bulloch County Sheriff’s incident reports by Investigator Dustin Williams.
Investigators “pinged” the woman’s cellphone and discovered it was nearby, and another deputy located her car at Bi-Lo, where the 67-year-old woman, of Timber Ridge Drive, was found safe. It was later determined that she had been on the phone with the scammer the entire time her husband was attempting to reach her. The suspect directed the woman’s every move and intimidated her by threatening to have her arrested if she did not follow his orders, according to reports.
While on the phone with the offender, the woman purchased several iTunes cards at both Wal-Mart and Walgreen’s. She told deputies that she had received the call from a man claiming to be with the IRS, who told her to buy cards and give him the card numbers, else the IRS would send the sheriff to arrest her. She said the offender would not allow her to hang up the phone.
She ended the call to speak to deputies, but the suspect called her back as she was talking to them, reports stated. Williams said that the offender, a male who “sounded Middle Eastern,” kept trying to get him to give the phone back to the woman. However, when Williams identified himself as a law enforcement officer, the offender hung up.
The incoming phone number was “spoofed” out of Baltimore, Maryland, and the original number was out of California, according to reports.
Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jared Akins said the incident is a new twist on an old scam.
“The IRS isn’t going to call you,” he said. “They will talk to you in person or send you a letter.”
He said the sheriff’s department takes scam reports often and has issued warnings to people, but a reminder doesn’t hurt.
Store employees and business owners also can do the public a service by looking for possible clues that someone is being victimized.
“If they see a person purchasing an unusual number of Green Dot or iTunes cards, it doesn’t hurt to ask a few questions,” he said.
Because the caller in this particular scam is likely operating from another country, the sheriff’s department is unable to prosecute this case and others like it. Therefore, the victim will not be able to recover the $4,000 loss, he said.
Herald Reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.