ELMONT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island woman admitted Wednesday that she fell for a scam that cost her almost all of her life savings.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the scam involves IRS impostors who demand money and make threats. In the case of the Long Island woman, fast work by law enforcement got some of her money back – but not all.
“I feel so bad. I feel so bad,” the woman said. “Now I can say I’m broke.”
The Elmont grandmother was too embarrassed to show her face or tell her family. She was cleaned out of her life savings — money she squirreled away for years — after she fell for the scam.
A caller claimed to be with the IRS, demanding immediate payment
“If I don’t do it, I’m going to jail – they’re going to take my house, they’re going to take my car,” she said. “I was scared.”
The woman complied, first wiring $68,000 to Hong Kong.
“The $68,000 goes to Hong Kong is gone,” she said.
The woman returned to the bank to transfer yet another $18,000, but concerned tellers told her call the police.
Nassau County police detectives said quick action enabled them to make a dent in the woman’s losses. They seized the $18,000, which was still in a bank account and has now been returned to the victim by District Attorney Madeline Singas.
Singas said scammers – often overseas — are hard to track.
“It’s difficult to develop a case, because they use phone numbers that are spoofed; that are not real phone numbers,” Singas said. “They have no real nexus to anybody in the case. They use data mining.”
The scammers may have last four digits of a would-be victim’s Social Security number. They may also play background music to simulate a call center.
The victim, out $68,000 now knows the IRS would never have phoned her.
“If you owe money, the IRS is going to send you a letter telling you want to do,” she said. “Be careful — there are some people out there that’s very wicked – they’re, I don’t know, criminals.”
“If they tell you not to tell anybody, that should be the first red flag,” said Nassau County police Deputy Inspector Kenneth Catalani. “If they’re telling you to send money out of the country, there’s another red flag.”
Police also advised that you should not let embarrassment delay you. If you suspect you have been scammed, tell the police right away.
In this case, the fast action is the only reason the victims has any savings left at all.
The Nassau County District Attorney said it is pursuing leads in the case, but the perpetrators were also using an innocent person’s bank account as part of the scam.