Beware: Thieves busy with phone scams - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Beware: Thieves busy with phone scams

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

The tax filing deadline has passed for most people but thieves and their schemes do not have expiration dates.

"I was afraid I wouldn't be able to go to the cemetery by him, so that had me upset and I wasn't thinking right, wasn't that long after he had died and I just didn't listen to what I heard in my head,” said Jean Costanza.

Costanza was vulnerable when the crooks called her home with threats. She had just lost her grandson.

“To jail... they said they would take me to jail. They said they would be there in like 20 minutes to get me,” said Costanza.

So she followed their instructions.

"They told me to go to the store and get those Itunes cards, so I bought four $500 cards and then they were on the phone the whole time I'm doing it they were with me on the phone and then they asked for the numbers on the back of the cards,” said Costanza.

The pretenders on the other end of the calls had actually demanded she paid thousands more. She said the calls came from different area codes.

She initially sent $2,000 and then refused to send the other $3,000 after her husband’s friend who is an attorney said it was definitely a scam.

"I didn't listen to my husband, he kept telling me, no, but I didn't listen, you know, I kept having that  feeling of being afraid that I'd be locked up and I wouldn't be able to go to the cemetery,” Costanza stated.

"Once you do that it's just about impossible to get that money back,” said Cynthia Albert, of the local Better Business Bureau.

She knows of other victims and said those involved in the scams not only threaten to put people in jail, but seize their homes.

"They will tell you anything to scare the heck out of you,” said Albert.

They were convincing, to say the least.

"I said maybe I do owe some money and I went down there and talked to one of the agents and he checked all my records and he said there's absolutely nothing, he said I don't owe a penny,” said Costanza.

Albert said another person who contacted the BBB did owe the IRS money, so she fell for the scheme thinking the agency was contacting her regarding her current case.

"And then when these characters called she just assumed it was the real IRS and that person gave up $10,000 because they threatened, they threatened her with jail time,” said Albert.

An IRS spokesman said their normal correspondence is in writing.

And the IRS website says they never:
--Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
--Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
--Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe, or
--Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Costanza knows better now but is still affected by the fake messages she continues to get via telephone from complete strangers.

"They didn't stop the calls and it still kind of scares me even when I get call, you know, even though I know it's not real, they have such a tactic, such a way that they talk to you,” said Costanza.

Albert said the best thing to do when one gets such calls is to hang up immediately and not give the caller any person information.

For people who have already been victimized, she said they should call law enforcement because identity theft may be involved, as well.

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