A few months ago, my mother telephoned me, quite distraught, and told me that she had received a call from the Internal Revenue Service warning her that she would be arrested unless she immediately sent money. After much back and forth, I convinced my mother to ignore the call and tried to explain to her that it was a scam. She doesn't use a computer. She doesn't have a smartphone. She doesn't go on the Internet or social media. Trust me, it took a lot of explaining about how some predator was trying to scare her into paying the IRS, and that it wasn't really the IRS, and, no, don't call them back and yell at them.Maybe you've gotten a similar threatening call or you know someone who has . . . fact is, even I got that IRS call via a voice-message on my home line. Thankfully, the Department of Justice is going after some of this scam artists who often target the elderly with this crap. If nothing else, keep a copy of this article and the linked Complaint, and show your grandparent, parent, or other family-member or friend that they are not alone in being targeted by fraudsters.
Case In Point
On December 5, 2014, Preet Bharara, the indefatigable crime-fighting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that a criminal Complaint had been unsealed charging Allah Justice McQueen, 33, Brooklyn, NY, with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. As alleged in the Complaint:
5. As set forth below, this investigation has revealed that ALLAH JUSTICE MCQUEEN, a/k/a "D," the defendant, and his co-conspirators, have perpetrated a scheme to defraud elderly grandparents around the United States by tricking them into believing their grandchildren have been imprisoned and need immediate bail money. In particular, in each case, a member of the conspiracy contacted the victim by phone, purported to be a law enforcement official or attorney, and falsely claimed that the victim's grandchild had been taken into custody for a narcotics offense and would not be released unless the victim paid thousands of dollars (and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars) in purported bail money. A member of the conspiracy also frequently posed on the call as the victim's grandchild, typically crying and pleading with the elderly victim to need money to secure the grandchild's release from jail, and asking the victim not to contact any other family members because the grandchild felt ashamed. In each case, in extreme distress, the victim has sent thousands of dollars, at a minimum, as instructed, to certain individuals who, among other things, have provided that money to MCQUEEN at his direction. In each case, after paying the "bail" money as directed, the victim has directly contacted his or her grandchild and thereupon learned that the grandchild had not, in fact, been arrested, that the grandchild knew nothing about the claims made on the call to the victim, and that the call appeared to be fraudulent.
On July 6, 2015, McQueen pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud. He faced a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, as set forth in the Complaint and a Superseding Indictment.
On November 2, 2015, McQueen was sentenced to 15 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution to the victims, a $200 special assessment, and forfeiture.