Debit Card Fraudster Posed As Queens Precinct Commander: Officials

By Katie Honan on February 25, 2014 7:51am 

 The suspect used a cellphone app to change his number to that of the victim's local precinct.
The suspect used a cellphone app to change his number to that of the victim's local precinct.
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Getty Images/Spencer Platt

FLUSHING — A scammer trying to bilk a 75-year-old man for $4,000 posed as a Queens precinct commander and threatened to arrest him if he didn't fork over the cash, police officials said.

In the latest twist for a debit card flimflam that's scored thousands of dollars from city residents, a caller identifying himself as an IRS agent told the man on Feb. 14 that he owed the government back taxes, according to the NYPD.

The man was told to put the funds on a reloadable, prepaid debit card, part of a national scam involving Green Dot MoneyPak cards.

When the victim was skeptical about the call, the phony agent said he'd have the police call him back. Then the victim received a second call from a number belonging to his local precinct, the 109th.

The caller identified himself as Inspector Brian Maguire, head of the Flushing precinct, and said if the money wasn't paid he'd put a warrant out for his arrest, the sources said.

The victim was still doubtful and hung up, reporting the incident to the police.

Det. Kevin O'Donnell with the 109th Precinct's community affairs office said the NYPD is trying to get the word out about the scam and remind them that a police officer would never demand money.

"People lose cash and [the debit card is] unreturnable," he said. "That's why we've been sharing this so much."

It's not immediately clear how many people have been scammed across the city or how much has been taken, or if this is the first instance in which a caller pretended to be an NYPD official.

The GreenDot MoneyPak scam has been on the NYPD's radar since at least December, when they released a video warning consumers about it.

The head of the 110th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson, warned about the con at a recent community council meeting and said fraudsters can use a cellphone app to change the information that appears on the call recipient's caller ID.

Sources said at least 17 incidents had been reported citywide between Dec. 1 and 16 in which scammers claimed to be Con Ed representatives and threatened to shut off a business's or a home's heat if they didn't fill up a MoneyPak card,

The callers asked for between $100 and $1,000.

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