Jeff Jardine

Scammer impersonates head of FBI

A few months ago, I wrote about the surge in the phone calls I’d been receiving from scammer scum trying to gain access to my personal computer at home.

Not happening.

Other callers claimed I owed the IRS for back taxes. The immediate options? Send them a gift card – no kidding – or risk be arrested.

I refused to play, and have not spent so much as one night in any jail. But that doesn’t stop the criminals from trying. Now, with tax season cranking up, they are stepping up their efforts on all fronts.

Monday, Jim Phelan of Sonora received a letter via email, and he forwarded it to me. The sender claims to be James B. Comey, direct of the FBI. Yes, someone has the cojones to impersonate the head of the most powerful law enforcement agency in the United States.

In the email, “Comey” claims the agency through wiretapping of the Internet confirmed the validity of a $65.7 million prize the recipient supposedly won. Wiretapping the Internet? Isn’t that the cyber place where people post photos of the burger and fries they had for lunch? Pictures of their vacations are in Rome, doing as the Romans do? Living their lives for the entire world, or at least their “friends,” to see?

Wiretapping the Internet? Can’t the scammers come up with something less lame than that?

“You have the legitimate right to complete your transaction to claim your fund US $65.7,000,000.00 (sixty five Million seven hundred thousand U S dollars)” the letter reads, followed by more gibberish. The FBI, it suggests, now controls the money. “We just got an information from the Heritage Bank and they have loaded your$65.7,000,000.00 in ATM MASTER CARD and submit to the FedEx courier service company for immediate delivery to your doorstep.”

You can have the money within 24 hours by sending them $450 – $380 for second-day delivery, $300 if you’re willing to wait three days to be rich beyond your wildest dreams.

What’s scarier than the grammar and punctuation in this missive is that someone might actually fall for it. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. We’re not talking about the Giants in the World Series in even-numbered years here. We’re talking about people promising to give when they only intend to take.

The letter is full of errors, such as lower-casing federal bureau of investigation, words that run together, etc. And the wording clearly gives the impression that English might be the author’s second language. Or third.

FBI folks know how to spell, or at least how to use the Microsoft Word program. Yet if the crooks weren’t periodically successful, they simply would move on to the next mode of theft. So they keep at us with the same scam attempts repeatedly, in search of a sucker.

As spinoffs of other scams go, the FBI scam combines elements of the so-called “419” lottery scam, the Nigerian scam and others based upon your pure good fortune, if only you are willing to put up some upfront cash in “good faith.” It’s been around in various forms for awhile, said Gina Swankie, the FBI’s public affairs specialist in Sacramento.

“It just keeps mutating,” she said. “The FBI has a wonderful educational resource on its website (http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety.) Scams can and should be reported using the Internet Crime Complaint Center website (http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.)”

As I chatted with Swankie on the phone Tuesday, a new email popped up on my screen. It was from longtime Bee reader Karen Ohl of Modesto.

“I just received the second call from the IRS scam, threatening me with ‘enforcement by the U.S. Treasury’ for my ‘Federal criminal offense.’ They will drag me in front of a Grand Jury and judge, because I am avoiding them by not calling.

“ ‘Help us to help you,’ said Steve Martin with a strange accent.”

Moments after reading Ohl’s email, reader Gene Orland wrote that said he’d received the same kind of calls, also with the caller identifying himself as “Steve Martin.”

OK, so crooks impersonate the head of the IRS. But Steve Martin? Now that really crosses the line, the Dirty Rotten Scoundrel. What a Jerk!

“I understand that catching such a person is nearly impossible,” Orland wrote. “They call thousands of numbers daily. But people in Modesto can at least be warned.”

Again. And Again. And again.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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