Lower Merion Township police warning about fake DEA scam

LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- With the holiday season just around the corner, police are warning people that the phone scammers are ratcheting it up.

In the latest scam, a fake DEA agent conned a woman out of almost $10,000 in an elaborate hoax that her identity had been stolen and she needed to help them secure her assets.

"And he said, "This is an urgent call about security, we're calling to protect you," recalled 48-year-old Jane Wharton of Penn Wynne.

She says she was at work recently when she got a call from a man claiming to be a DEA agent that she would later learn wasn't an agent at all, but a scam artist.

"Someone stole your social security number and opened a number of bank accounts, we want to make sure you freeze your assets," Wharton quoted the man as saying.

He told her that in addition to opening bank accounts, the thief had also committed some crimes and that it was all under her name.

What made it seemed credible was this.

"They told me the crime was committed in Texas and I happen to be in Texas recently," she said.

The fake DEA agent was so convincing he told her there was only one way they could save her assets and line of credit.

"That line of credit needed to be tied up in a U.S. Treasury bond and the only way to do that was through the government's association with the Target Corporation, the store, and that I needed to buy gift cards," she said.

So she went to Target and bought thousands of dollars in gift cards.

The man remained on the phone with her the entire time. She gave the man the card numbers and pin numbers that went with them.

"He told me not to tell anyone, but my husband noticed I was acting strange and got it right out of me," she said.

They went to Lower Merion police who told them, unfortunately, there is a lot of this stuff going on.

"We are finding that a lot of this stuff is happening from call centers overseas, so trying to track down the people that are actually responsible for this is very difficult," said Detective Sgt. Michael Vice of the Lower Merion Police.

Fortunately for Jane Wharton, she called her credit card company immediately. They told her because she acted promptly, they would not hold her liable for the thousands of dollars she lost. And police say a word to the wise: no legitimate government agency is going to ask you to provide any type of money over the phone whether it be gift cards, bank accounts or credit card numbers for any reason, period.
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