Hopatcong Police are looking into a reported $10,0000 fraud against a senior citizen involving cell phones and technology—and questionable use of the names of the local police department, the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the federal Internal Revenue Service.
Spokesperson Lt. Thomas Kmetz said a 67-year-old Hopatcong resident came into police headquarters and complained that I.R.S. agent Damien Marshall called his cell phone number and said that the man would be arrested if he did not pay a $10,000 debt to the government. If he did not pay he would be arrested, the victim said he was told.
Kmetz said the victim reported that his caller ID displayed the name "I.R.S. Damien Marshall." The lieutenant noted that a smartphone app is on the market that allows people to send fraudulent caller identifications.
The victim's story continued: "Damien Marshall" told him to go to Walmart and buy 10 Money Pak prepaid cards valued at $1,000 each and then to give him the Money Pak number, he said.
"Yes, he did do this," said Kmetz. "He drove all the way to Walmart without asking someone, calling the police or thinking something fishy is going on for the I.R.S to make you go to Walmart to get a prepaid card."
After his trip to the discount department store, the man apparently realized something was amiss and headed to the police. While at Hopatcong Police headquarters, Kmetz said the victim received a cell phone call from the number 800-937-8997. The caller ID read "Hopatcong Police." The man answered the call and a man described as speaking broken English advised there was a warrant for his arrest if he didn't pay the $10,000. A police officer took the phone and the caller ended the call and hung up.
Kmetz said the man received another call demanding more money, this one identified as the Department of Motor Vehicles. The person on the line threatened the victim, telling him his driver's license would be suspended if he did not comply with the demand for cash.
The lieutenant urged Hopatcong residents to be vigilant and to look out for vulnerable friends and associates.
"Please think about who you know that might be susceptible to these types of scams and tell them about this," he said.
He also warned people to be skeptical of phone calls such as this in general.
"Stop being victims," said Kmetz. "If [a phone call] seems wrong, you are right. It is wrong."
Anyone who receives such a call is encouraged to contact Hopatcong Police right away at 973-398-5000.