Scam artists pretend to be feds to try to get money from Hampton couple

Posted at 7:00 PM, Jul 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-18 08:29:22-04

Hampton, Va. – A couple was hit with staggering news over the phone Tuesday - they owe $45,000 in back taxes to the IRS.

But as they soon learned the whole thing was a scam.

"They’re saying that we have a warrant out for your husband’s arrest.  We need to speak to him immediately,” said Meena Daswani.

The caller would not go into detail. He just identified himself as an officer with a crime investigation unit and it was urgent.

“I started to cry. I got very emotional. I’m like, ‘you’re kidding, this is ridiculous,’” said Meena Daswani.

They wanted her husband’s cell phone number, but something didn’t seem right, so she refused to give it to them.  Instead, she asked for their number so her husband could call back.

The call originally showed up on her phone as an unknown number. The number they gave her to call back had a 732 area code, a number based in New Jersey.

When Amit Daswani called it, the man who answered identified himself as Officer Jason Smith, telling him  he was with the Federal Crime Investigation Department , and Daswani owed thousands to the IRS.

“He transferred me to a supervisor who told me that they can drop these charges if I go ahead and pay the penalties of around $1,000,” said Amit Daswani.

When he started asking questions and wanted to resolve the matter locally, they stepped up their threats.

“They were very aggressive, and yeah, they pretty much tried to call me a scumbag for not paying my taxes,” said Amit Daswani.

They then said they would have the Virginia State Police come arrest him if he didn’t pay up.

Besides the fact that he pays his taxes, there were a lot of things that didn't add up.  Everyone he spoke with had a heavy accent, they were willing to let him pay less than he owed, and he was given advance notice that police were supposedly coming to arrest him.

When he got off the phone, he called the Hampton Police Department and they confirmed what he already suspected - it was a scam.

“No law enforcement agency would call and solicit money in terms of, if you pay a dollar amount they would expunge any type of active warrant.  That would just not happen,” said Cpl. Mary Shackelford.

Hampton police say the Daswanis did exactly what they should have by questioning the caller and asking for verification.

Shackelford said if someone doesn’t seem to be a legitimate officer, whether it’s over the phone or in-person, you should verify by calling the agency they are supposed to be working for.

Unfortunately, when it comes to tracking down the scam artists, there’s not much they can do. The numbers are often re-routed through a different country.

When NewsChannel 3 called the number, a man answered the phone by saying “State Investigation Department,” but when he learned who was calling, he hung up.

On the internet, others have posted about receiving the same call.

“They make you seem like you’re the one who’s done something wrong,” said Meena Daswani.

Although they didn't fall for it, the Daswanis just want to make sure people know about this latest scam, so that the only ones left with nothing are the scammers.