By Matt Coker (OC Weekly)
Irvine Police detectives are dealing with an unusual case: a kidnapping where two men impersonated police officers and threatened a local resident with arrest if he did not pay back taxes via a Green Dot MoneyPak cash card.
Meanwhile, Anaheim Police are dealing with scammers posing as Public Utilities representatives also seeking Green Dot MoneyPak payments.
Over in Santa Ana, cops are looking at fake Southern California Edison reps seeking payment by … aw, hell, do we have to spell it out for you, people?
Now, real Irvine cops are looking not only for the phony baloneys but witnesses and other victims of similar crimes.
This all began there around 8 a.m. Thursday, according to Irvine Police Lt. Julia Engen, the department spokeswoman. That’s when the fellow received a phone call from someone saying that he owed the U.S. Attorney General’s office money in back taxes. He was instructed to go to a local store to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPack cash card in the amount of the back taxes owed.
But the fellow refused, prompting the caller to threaten him with arrest by a law enforcement agency. Sure enough, a black Ford Crown Victoria with tinted windows pulled up to the man’s Irvine residence a short time later, Engen said.
Two men got out of the Crown Vic and approached the man, who was by now standing in front of his residence. After identifying themselves as law enforcement officials, they placed the man in the back of their “unit” and threatened him with arrest. He was only released when he agreed to go purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak, according to Engen.
Both fake cops were described as Middle Eastern. One was 45 to 50, 6-foot-2, with a medium build, black curly hair, a mustache and a dark complexion. He was wearing a black suit, white shirt and a black tie. The second was about 50, 5-foot-10 with a medium build, short brown hair with some gray and wearing a black suit, white shirt and a black tie.
The reservoir dogs’ vehicle was a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria, black, with no exterior light bar, tinted windows and an interior safety cage.
Irvine Police detectives are looking for additional witnesses to this crime or anyone who believes they were stung by these guys also. Call Detective John Sanders at 949.724.7244 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Anaheim, public utilities customers have been getting calls from scammers impersonating city employees requesting over-the-phone payments via Green Dot MoneyPak cards purchased at local stores.
Using “spoofing software” that falsely displays Anaheim Public Utilities’ name and phone number on caller ID systems, the impersonators ask customers for money cards in a specific dollar amount and then ask them to dictate into the phone the MoneyPak number.
The scam has prompted the city to inform residents it does not solicit payments by MoneyPak numbers.
“As a reminder, Anaheim Public Utilities representatives will never make unsolicited calls to customers to collect utility payments, nor will staff visit residents to solicit payment,” reads the alert. “Customers can pay their utility bills by any of the following methods:
- By mail to Anaheim Public Utilities, P.O. Box 3222, Anaheim, CA 92803-3222
- In-person at Anaheim West Tower, 201 S. Anaheim Blvd., First Floor, Anaheim
- Through the authorized and automated phone system, by calling 714-765-3300
- Securely online at www.anaheim.net/utilities
“To verify if a call or visitor to your home is that of a City of Anaheim employee, or if you suspect fraud, please call 714-765-3300.”
Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, that department’s spokesman, says scammers phone Edison customers to say their accounts are delinquent, threatening to cut their electrical service unless payments are immediately made with Green Dot Moneypak cards.
Business owners have been swindled out of more than $2,600 and at least six Santa Ana residents have been contacted by the scammers in the past couple months, according to Bertagna.
Working with SoCal Edison, Santa Ana cops have so far determined the calls seem to be originating on the East Coast, according to Bertagna, who adds investigators suspect the same baddies stole more than $30,000 from Santa Ana businesses last March.
Santa Ana residents and merchants are being warned against giving out personal information over the phone. Anyone who believes they are a victim of these scammers is instructed to call 1.855.TIPOCCS.