Indian-Americans with one last name targeted in scam

June 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you have a certain last name, listen-up. Thieves, posing as IRS agents are calling with a threat: either pay up or get arrested.

ABC7 News spoke with one East Bay couple who got taken for $16,000 just because they had the last name Patel. But since this con game started, alerts like these are going out to Indian families all over the country.

"They're going to take your passport, your citizenship, everything and you can go to jail for 17 months," said one man who doesn't want to be identified. He agreed to share his story with us to warn others about a very costly con. He said, "$16,000 I lost."

It began with a phone call from this number: 1-848-480-6577 from Toms River, NJ. A person claiming to be from the IRS told the victim he and his wife failed to pay enough taxes. When the victim said he didn't understand, another man who spoke his native language -- Gujarati -- got on the phone.

He demanded the victim rush to Rite Aid and 7-Eleven to buy Green Dot MoneyPack cards -- they're re-loadable debit cards. The victim bought 30 of them and gave the Gujarati man on the phone access to all of them.

"I was so scared, so I don't think anything," the man said.

The victim finally reported it to police, but detectives don't have a lot to go on.

"The perpetrators in this case probably called 100 people and they got one person to fall for it," said Pleasant Hill Police Lt. Dan Connelly.

It turns out Gujaratis across the country are being targeted in the same swindle. Now Gujarati advocacy groups are emailing out their own warning. They're worried more members will fall for this.

"It's a trusting community and that's why when they bring in that guy who speaks Gujarati or an Indian language it trust that becomes more of a factor," said Bobby Patel, a former Patel Association president.

In this case, the language that binds this community is being used against it.


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