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St. Charles police warn of scams

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Police Department is warning people against scams after two residents lost thousands of dollars reacting to calls claiming they owed money to the Internal Revenue Service and were at risk of losing their homes, police said Monday in a news release.

"Residents should not allow themselves to be bullied by these offenders and should hang up on them immediately," police said.

A resident was reportedly contacted Thursday by a man who identified himself as "Mr. Cruz" and told the resident he owed $5,000, which needed to be paid in the next 45 minutes or he would face arrest and be evicted from his home immediately.

The resident followed directions to go to a pharmacy and load the amount owed on Green Dot MoneyPaks, police said. The man reportedly halted contact with the caller after he was told the cards didn't work and was told to buy more in the amount of $2,500.

Police said another resident was contacted Friday in a similar fashion and was told she owed the IRS nearly $6,000. She reportedly followed directions to purchase 10 Reloadit Cards with $500 loaded on each card and was told to buy more cards after that transaction.

MoneyPak and Reloadit cards are a way to transfer money and are available at more than 50,000 retailers nationwide, police said.

Both victims lost about $5,000, police spokeswoman Lisa Blackwell said.

Both phone calls came from the 202 area code, which covers Washington, D.C., police said. In one case, police said, the scammer "spoofed" the IRS phone number in Washington, D.C., and the St. Charles Police Department's main number to appear legitimate, and the caller identified herself as a St. Charles police officer.

Police said this scam isn't new, but incidents seem to have spiked in the last year.

"Those who make the calls are reported to be extremely rude, threatening and demanding," police said. "Residents should know that the IRS, or any other government entity, does not operate in this manner."

Whenever in doubt, Blackwell said, ask questions.

"It may be scary, but they have to remember they're on the phone, and they can simply hang up and call 911 to get assistance," Blackwell said.

Those who have been a victim of this scam should contact the St. Charles Police Department to make a report, Blackwell said. She noted the IRS tracks the reports and is working the fraud cases.

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