Phone scam on the rise locally, nationally
Local resident targeted for faux DEA raid
By Shane Cohn 06/21/2012
Note to self: If the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) calls and says it will be raiding my house later, it’s not the DEA calling.
Chances are it’s just a new shell of an old scam to extort money out of innocent people.
Around the country, phone scammers are claiming to be federal agents and calling people who have used online pharmacies, telling them they are targets in a criminal investigation. Unless a large sum of money is sent to an offshore bank account, the scammers tell their subjects, an arrest is imminent.
Pam, a 65-year-old Camarillo resident, received a call last week from an alleged DEA agent.
“Everything sounded so real,” said Pam. “I just suddenly felt vulnerable and I was going to give her information. She said she was an agent. It was very scary.”
A woman claiming to be a DEA agent told Pam she had ordered drugs illegally. In 2007, Pam was, in fact, ordering thyroid medication from Mexico “because it was cheaper” but, to the best of her knowledge, not illegal.
“They said they were going to arrest me and search the house,” recalled Pam. “I panicked and said they could come and search any time.”
But out of fear, Pam hung up the phone. She called back the number, which had a Los Gatos, Calif., area code, and the woman answered, “Drug Enforcement Agency.”
Pam hung up once again, but the scammers never called back.
“This is not how we operate,” said Rusty Payne, spokesman for the DEA. Payne said this scam has been going on for three to four years, preying on people’s fears. For a while, he said, this scam had died down but seems to be on the rise again.
Payne said the majority of offshore accounts linked to this scam are in the Dominican Republic, and the DEA is currently working with the Dominicans to try and stop this.
“Maybe the bad guys are in cahoots with the web operators (of these sites), but they circle back and look at records of purchases,” said Payne. “Whether the purchases are legal or illegal, they get it somehow.”
Payne said there have been cases of the scammers going so far as dressing up as DEA agents to collect the money.
Payne advised anybody with information about this scam, to call the local police department.