AMBRIDGE (AP) — A telephone caller running a Homeland Security-themed scam was so persistent he continued his shtick even after a western Pennsylvania police chief answered the elderly target’s phone and identified himself as a police officer, police said.
According to police in Harmony Township, a caller told a 70-year-old woman she won $480,000 in a contest, but could only collect $100,000 because of limits imposed under the Patriot Act — and then only if she sent a $5,000 cash “bond,” the Beaver County Times reported Thursday.
The woman sent the money by FedEx, but her family learned of it and contacted police before it could be delivered to an address in Brooklyn, N.Y.
While police were at the woman’s house Monday, an officer answered a call from a man claiming to be “Homeland Security Agent Nick McKenzie” and demanding to know why the package was delayed.
Township police Chief Jim Essek said he took the phone and spoke to the man, who insisted it was illegal to stop the money delivery — even after Essek identified himself as a police officer. A short time later, Essek said, another man called claiming to be from the Better Business Bureau to inquire about the transaction but hung up when Essek, again, identified himself as an officer.
Police haven’t identified or charged any suspects, but Essek said the scam was fairly sophisticated.
Among other things, the men who called the elderly woman gave her numbers purporting to be the offices of the Department of Homeland Security and the Better Business Bureau. When she called them, people answered the phone claiming to be with those agencies, though Essek said police have determined the numbers were bogus.
The callers were even able to tell the woman where she could go to send the money to them, and gave her correct information about the kinds of federal tax forms she would have to file upon claiming her winnings, the chief said.