WHITTIER >> Police are seeking a man who was caught on camera while conning an elderly Whittier man out of $9,000 last month, officials said.
The crime took place about noon on Jan. 13, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
The swindler knocked on the victim’s door and claimed to represent a paintless dent-removal service, police said.
“After pretending to do some work on the victims’ car, the suspect and his unknown partner charged the victim $9,000 for their ‘services,’ according to the statement. “Feeling intimidated, the victim, who is elderly, reluctantly drove with the suspects to a local bank and cashed a personal check.”
Bank surveillance cameras captured images of one of the suspect as he accompanied the victim to the bank.
The con men drove the suspect back home and left with his money, officials said. They completed no work on the victim’s car.
One of the suspects was described as a Latino man, about 40 to 45 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 170 pounds, wearing a white T-shirt and a black hooded sweater. The second con man was a Latino man of 25 to 30 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, of medium build, wearing dark clothes. The drove a white van.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Whittier police Detective Allen Lemus at 562-567-9290, or the Whittier Police Department’s 24-hour Crime Tipline at 562-567-9299. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
BANK SURVEILLANCE PHOTO courtesy of the Whittier Police Department
GLENDORA >> Officials are cautioning the public to be aware of con artists posing as Glendora Water Division officials and demanding bogus payments over the phone.
“In this scenario, the suspect tells the victim their water service will be stopped due to non-payment of water bill, and requests immediate payment over the phone,” city officials said in a written statement. In reality, “The city will never call to notify of water service shut-off.”
Officials urged residents to rely upon any phone numbers offered by the callers, as the numbers often simply lead right back to the scammers.
Anyone who believes they’ve been targeted by the scam is asked to contact Glendora police at 626-914-8250.
Anyone with questions or concerns regarding a water bill can reach the Glendora Water Billing Department at 626-914-8239, or email email@example.com.
ARCADIA >> Police are seeking a con man who they say used bogus auto repair scam to bilk a 90-year-old man out of money Thursday.
The incident began about 1 p.m. as the victim was getting into his car in front of a Ralphs grocery store at Huntington Drive and Sunset Boulevard, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said in a written statement.
The suspect hopped in the passenger-side door of the victims car and told the victim he worked for a car manufacturer and noticed a problem with the car’s door, she said.
“The suspect said he could fix the door for a cash payment. The suspect reached under the dash and pulled out a ‘black chip’ which he then replaced, claiming to fix the car,” Flores said. “The victim drove to a nearby bank with the suspect, withdrew the money, and paid the suspect.”
The victim then dropped the con man off back at the supermarket parking lot, police said.
It was unclear whether the suspect actually replaced something in the victim’s car or merely pretended, Flores said. There was not believed to be anything wrong with the victim’s car in the first place.
Detectives declined to discuss how much money the elderly victim lost in the scam, Flores said.
Police described him as male, about 50 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall and of medium build. He spoke with an accent, possible Middle Eastern.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5151. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stopper at 800-222-8477.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5151. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stopper at 800-222-8477.
SUSPECT photos courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department
SAN DIMAS >> A con artist posing as an IRS representative nearly persuaded a woman to turn over thousands of dollars Friday before a misunderstanding at a San Dimas bank drew the attention of deputies, officials said.
Deputies initially responded about 12:30 p.m. to a report of a robbery at the Chase branch, 1001 W. Arrow Highway, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Tonya Edwards said.
They arrived and learned there had been no robbery, but there was a crime in progress, she said.
A woman had been contacted by telephone by a man claiming to represent the IRS and demanding she withdraw several thousand dollars from her bank account and wire it to him, the lieutenant said. The scammer also demanded that the woman remain on the phone with him throughout the process.
While at the bank, the woman passed a note to a teller trying to explain the situation, officials said. The teller thought the bank was being robbed and called deputies.
Deputies found the woman still on the phone with the con artist, Edwards said. When a deputy tried to speak with the caller, he hung up.
The extortion attempt was strikingly similar to others reported both locally and throughout the nation in recent months and years.
A 70-year-old Sierra Madre woman lost about $4,000 in a nearly identical scam in April.
For more information on tax scams, visit www.irs.gov.
SIERRA MADRE >> A Sierra Madre who disappeared Thursday morning after she withdrew thousands of dollars from her bank account to give to scammers posing as IRS agents was found safe Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The woman 70, received a phone call about 9 a.m. claiming to be from an IRS representative who told her she owed money to the agency, Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said. But police believe the caller was a con-artist.
The woman’s husband reported that she went to her bank and withdrew $5,000 at the request of the caller, Giannone said. She was to be given further instruction on how to send or deliver the money to the scammers. It was unclear what those arrangements may have been.
She then vanished, police said.
Police announced shortly after 6 p.m. that the woman had been found safe, but released no further details regarding what had taken place.
The woman was victimized by a common scam that re-emerges each tax season and has been seen throughout the nation, but Sierra Madre was hit especially hard Thursday as the con artists targeted the foothill community.
More than 50 Sierra Madre residents who reported receiving similar calls on Thursday, the chief said.
Residents lost about $6,000 in total to the scammers, police said.
The phone call received by Bargen came from the same phone number that called other Sierra Madre residents Thursday in the IRS scam.
Giannone declined to discuss the phone number in more detail, citing the ongoing investigation.
Neighboring police agencies reported receiving sporadic reports of the IRS scam in their cities, but not the type of surge in scam attempts seen Thursday in Sierra Madre.
COVINA >> Police jailed a La Puente man Thursday on suspicion of bilking about 30 victims out of an estimated $100,000 by posing as a utlity representative offering to help them get a job with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, officials said.
James Raymond Zulaica, 37, is accused of grand theft and identity theft for his alleged scam, which has been ongoing since July, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said in a written statement.
Calling himself, “Jimmy Rojas,” Zulaica has been falsely claiming to work for the LADWP, Peterson said. He told his victims that for a fee, he could help them get jobs at the utility.
“The fees he charged each individual victim ranged from $1,300 to $15,000. The total losses of all victims are estimated to be approximately $100,000.”
Police arrested Zulaica early Thursday while carrying out a search warrant at his La Puente home.
According to county booking records, Zulaica was being held in lieu of $45,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
Police are seeking additional victims of the alleged con, and asked anyone with information to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5615.
PHOTO of suspect James Zulaica courtesy of the Covina Police Department.
San Gabriel Valley police agencies and utility providers are cautioning the public about an ongoing scam in which con artists are posing as electric or phone utility employees and demanding bogus payments.
Police in cities including West Covina and Monrovia warned the public of the scam over the past week, along with officials at Southern California Edison.
The nationwide scam targets utility customers, and in this case, primarily business owners, via telephone or email, SCI spokesman David Song said in a written statement. “In both scenarios, the scammers often request personal information and threaten to cut off electrical service if they do not receive immediate payment.”’
Edison customers have reported receiving similar letters and phone calls. In some cases, the customers are told their service will be disconnected immediately if they do not submit a payment.
A similar scam was rampant last year, targeting more than 2,000 SCE customers, Song said. “Unfortunately, more than 300 customers have fallen victim to the scam, many of them mom and pop business owners and entrepreneurs whose first language is not English,” Song said.
“The average loss for SCE business customers last year was between $800 and $1,000,” Song added. Residential customers who fell victim to the scam lost between $300 and $500 on average, and total losses to SCE customers in the scam are estimated at $225,000.
The scammers demand payments via prepaid credit cards or debit cards, officials said.
“SCE never uses high-pressure tactics to collect or demand money for past due bills,” according to SCE Manager of Consumer Affairs Marlyn Denter. “We are not in the business of threatening our customers with immediate termination of service.”
In Monrovia, police have noted the scam, with callers claiming to represent both SCE and Verizon.
“The caller tells the business their services are going shut off within 45 minutes to an hour, and a crew has already been dispatched to cut of the services unless a same-day payment is made immediately,” Monrovia police officials said in a written statement.
Some of the calls were received during weekends.
“The suspects sound seemingly legitimate and are targeting businesses, as businesses cannot afford to be without phone or power over the weekend,” the Monrovia police statement said. “It is not normal SCE or Verizon protocol to shut off service on the weekends.”
West Covina police also joined in the warning residents of the ongoing scam involving fake SCE representatives.
Those believing they have received a suspicious phone call are advised to end the call and report it to local police, as well as SCE at 800-655-4545. Suspicious emails can be reported to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force at www.stopfraud.gov as well as to SCE. Officials advised customers not to click on any links or attachments, send no reply and delete the email.
Information regarding the scam is available in multiple languages on SCE’s website at www.sce.com.
MONROVIA — A senior lost $9,500 in a scam and another was behind bars in connection with the alleged caper Wednesday, officials said.
Buddy Young Johnson, 67, of Norwalk was booked on suspicion of grand theft by trickery and theft with prior theft convictions in connection with the incident, which unfolded Wednesday afternoon in Arcadia and Monrovia, according to Monrovia police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
But the victim’s money, as well as a second suspect, remained unaccounted for Wednesday night, the sergeant said. No description of the outstanding con artist was available.
The incident began about 2 p.m. when the victim, Monrovia man in his late-60s, encountered a man at a 99 Cents Only Store in Arcadia, officials said.
The man told the victim he had $250,000 and wanted to travel to Africa, but was unable to send the money there himself, saying it would be confiscated. The scammer offered the victim compensation to help, but demanded the victim withdraw a significant amount of cash to prove his financial responsibility.
Johnson then approached the first suspect and victim, pretending not to know the other scammer and claiming he wanted to get in on the deal as well.
After Johnson claimed to have withdrawn $35,000 and showed it to the unidentified scammer, the initial con artist told the victim it was his turn, according to police.
The victim agreed to withdraw $9,500, which the scammers persuaded him to wrap in a rag so they could pray over it, investigators said. But at some point, the scammers switched the man’s money for another rag stuffed with newspaper.
As the victim was heading to the bank, he notified a family member of what was going on, Verna said. The family member met the victim and scammers at the bank, and managed to grab onto Johnson and hold him until police arrived.
The second suspect managed to flee with the victim’s money, Verna said. A description was not available.
Monrovia police notified other nearby law enforcement agencies of the arrest in hopes of tracking down additional victims of the alleged con artists.
According to county booking records, Johnson was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending his initial appearance Friday in Pasadena Superior Court.
PASADENA — A caller threatened to bomb a Pasadena grocery store and unsuccessfully demanded the manager deposit money on prepaid cash cards Friday in what officials said appears to be part of a nationwide crime trend.
The incident unfolded about 2:45 p.m. at Vons, 2355 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said.
The caller demanded the store manager load money onto prepaid card accounts, saying a bomb would detonate at the store if he did not, the lieutenant said. The voice was described as male.
The manager did not comply and immediately contacted police, Gourdikian said.
“We searched the store,” he said. “Nothing unusual was found.”
Store officials indicated the threat appeared to be consistent with similar calls being received by retail stores throughout the United States in recent months, Gourdikian said.
“They do it remotely,” he said. “It’s not clear if the suspects are in the city.”
Similar threatening calls elsewhere in the country have been found to originate from overseas, internet-based numbers, according to an alert issued in September by the FBI’s Atlanta Division on the heels of more than 10 such calls in that jurisdiction.
“To date, no explosives devices gave been found anywhere in the country linked to this type of threat,” according to the September statement.
Updated information regarding the incidents nationwide was not available late Friday.
Store officials could not be reached for comment.
The callers generally demand that money be placed loaded onto a type of prepaid card called Green Dot MoneyPak cards, according to the FBI.
“Green Dot MoneyPak cards are re-loadable and available at most retail outlets throughout the country and, like money wire transfers, are just as untraceable,” the FBI statement said. “These cards are not associated with any bank, meaning that the money is in the card. Users of these Green Dot MoneyPak cards are reminded to never give anyone those numbers associated with those cards in that doing so gives them instant access to the money on those cards.”
It was not clear late Friday whether the Pasadena incident involved the same type of cards.
Anyone with information regarding the “emerging scam” was urged to contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center online at www.IC3.gov.
The Internal Revenue Service is warning the public about a nation-wide scam in which con artist are calling victims claiming to represent the IRS and demanding payment of purported taxes.
People throughout the nation have been targeted by the “sophisticated phone scam,” including recent immigrants, IRS officials said in a written statement.
The victims are told they owe money to the IRS, which must be promptly paid via a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer, officials said.
“If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license,” according to the IRS statement. “In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.”
The scammers recite fake names and IRS badge numbers to prospective victims, and sometimes are able to provide the last four digits of the victims social security numbers, authorities added. The crooks have also been known to “spoof” the IRS’s toll-free phone number, making it appear on caller ID as if the call is originating from the IRS.
Some victims also received bogus e-mails purporting to be from the IRS along with the phone calls.
After the initial call, some victims have received follow-up calls from con artists claiming to represent local police or the DMV.
“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country,” IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said. “Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.”
“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” Werfel said.
The IRS generally first contacts taxpayers regarding tax issues via the mail, he added.
IRS officials offered several pieces of advice to help avoid becoming a victim of the scam.
Those who believe they actually do owe taxes to the IRS can contact the agency at 800-829-1040 and speak with an IRS employee regarding any potential issues.
Those who suspect trickery and do not believe they owe any taxes are urged to report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
Taxpayers who believe they’ve been targeted by the scam are also asked to report it to the Federal Trade Commission via the “FTC Complaint Assistant” at www.ftc.gov. Victims are advised to include the phrase “IRS telephone scam” to the comments while filing a complaint.
For more information, visit www.irs.gov.