EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (FOX 9) - Police in Eden Prairie, Minnesota say two residents fell victim to a fraud scheme about which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a warning this week.
The DEA warned the public about the widespread scheme where fraudsters impersonated DEA agents over the phone to try to steal money and private information from members of the public.
"What’s concerning is the number of people who are unfortunately falling victim to this," said Emily Murray, public information officer for the Drug Enforcement Agency Omaha Division. "These scammers are calling and they’re really threatening."
According to the DEA, the calls follow a few narratives. One of them involves the callers telling the person that a vehicle rented in their name was stopped at the border and contained a large quantity of drugs. The caller then asks the victim to verify their social security number or bank account information. Some of the victims have been threatened with arrest.
During some of the calls, the impersonators ask victims to send money via gift card or wire transfer to avoid arrest or ask them to reset their bank accounts to assist in a fictional investigation.
The DEA says the fraudsters have even spoofed DEA phone numbers or sent photos of real-looking credentials to try to convince victims the calls are legitimate.
Murray told FOX 9 these scammers are getting smarter.
"One of the scams we're hearing is that these scammers will call people and identify themselves as a DEA agent. They'll give a badge number and a phone number that when you back in Google and check them, it'll go back to an actual DEA phone number so people think it's legitimate," she added. "Scammers have been around for a long time but the DEA being brought into it is a new twist."
"We’re never going to call you and ask you for any personal identifiable information," said Murray. We’re never going to ask you for a credit card and we’re never going to ask you for your social security number. The best thing you can do if you think you have a call and think it's a scam is to just hang up."
Eden Prairie scheme victims
In Eden Prairie, police responded to two incidents where residents fell victim to the scheme. One of the victims lost $34,000 and the other lost about $12,000.
In the first case, the female victim was told she had her identity stolen and was implicated in a drug investigation. The caller told her to withdraw $10,000 from her bank and helped her purchase gift cards. They threatened her that she could end up in jail if she didn’t comply.
The second victim was told by a caller that her former vehicle was found with bullet holes and blood inside. In order to clear her name, the fraudster said, she had to pay the government in the form of gift cards.
What to do if you suspect you're targeted by this scheme:
The best deterrence against these bad actors is awareness and caution. Anyone receiving a call from a person claiming to be with DEA should report the incident to the FBI at www.ic3.gov. The Federal Trade Commission provides recovery steps, shares information with more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies and takes reports at reportfraud.ftc.gov. For any victims who have given personally identifiable information like a social security number to the caller, can learn how to protect against identity theft at www.identitytheft.gov.
Here are some other tactics the fraudsters may use:
- Use an urgent and aggressive tone, refusing to speak to or leave a message with anyone other than their targeted victim;
- Threaten arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, and, in the case of medical practitioners and pharmacists, revocation of their DEA registration;
- Demand thousands of dollars via wire transfer or in the form of untraceable gift card numbers the victim is told to provide over the phone;
- Ask for personal information, such as social security number or date of birth;
- Reference National Provider Identifier numbers and/or state license numbers when calling a medical practitioner. They also may claim that patients are making accusations against that practitioner.