DOJ targets IRS phone schemes
For the first time, federal authorities have dismantled a criminal organization behind one of the most common phone scheme in the country. Prosecutors indicted 61 people, both in the United States and abroad, for impersonating IRS and immigration agents to extort money from vulnerable victims.
Mary Essendelft is a scheme victim. She says she was home alone when she got a call from a person saying they were with the IRS.
She says that’s when the nightmare began. Essendelft is a grandmother who was scammed out of nearly $100K by someone claiming to be with the IRS.
The fake agent told Essendelft that her grown son with special needs hadn't paid taxes in a decade - and if he didn't pay, he'd be thrown in jail.
"He said don't tell anybody, don't call anybody because your house is bugged,” said Essendelft.
Authorities say scammers are mostly targeting the elderly and immigrants - by conning them to pay with prepaid debt cards and wire transfers.
Federal investigators say Mary is not alone and thousands of people are getting these types of calls.
On Thursday the Department of Justice announced a major break with the indictment of 61 individuals and entities.
Half of the defendants are from overseas and allegedly tied to a network of call centers in India.
In the U.S., police are rounding up the suspected criminals in nine states, who they say left a trail of 15-thousand victims who lost more than $300 million.
The indictments won't return victims' money, but authorities say they hope to send a message that they're taking action.
Officials say the suspected criminals used information they got from data brokers, social media and other sources to target their victims.