HPD Shares Tale of Scams and Wal-Mart Debit Cards

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If you ever needed another reason to hate Wal-Mart, Alice Lee's got one for you. She was almost a victim Tuesday night of the Green Dot Moneypack scam.

But we'll get to that in a minute.

Lee was a special guest during the Houston Police Department's news conference today on scams targeting the Asian Community. Eric Mehl from the HPD's swindle unit led the discussion where he also ave some details on a tax season ruse called the "IRS Impostor Scam" that's been targeting Indian and Afghani immigrants in Houston. In that one someone of very low moral character calls the unsuspecting victim and tell them that they owe back taxes and that they can be deported for non-payment.

Then there's the "you got a warrant scam", which is where Lee comes in. While she is Chinese American, police said this scam is equal opportunity.

From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Lee got calls on her personal cell phone from a 281 area code number. The first call was from a person who said he was a Sheriff's office warrants division deputy. He told Lee that she missed a grand jury appearance on March 14 and that she could pay a fine and fees and be done.

Lee, who works at the Greater Sharpstown Management District, slowly picked apart the b.s. from the dude on the phone. She played along as he "rattled off a bunch of fines" and even named a judge and the address of the jail she would go to for failure to pay.

To get out of going to jail, the caller--who Lee assured Hair Balls later did not sound Nigerian (don't act like you don't know about the great Nigerian scam of the 00s)---asked Lee to go to Wal-Mart and fill up one of those Green Dot money cards with the fine amount, which including court fees, was about $750. The guy told her to call back in an hour with the card number.

Lee said she got a second call, where the scare-tactic got ramped up a notch and someone said he was a "supervisor" and wanted to verify that Lee would indeed head to Wal-Mart and cop these debit cards. Of course she didn't.

"If I didn't have any contacts within HPD I probably would've fallen for the scam," Lee said.

Asian immigrants have been the source of recent reports, Mehl said, which is why they decided to focus the presentation on them. He says he feels like immigrants in general are targets for scammers because of the fear of rocking the boat.

HPD officials said they've seen a rise in the IRS scams, and it's created a backlog. "They're hitting hard," Mehl said. To protect yourself, don't give out any info to anyone on the phone, and definitely don't fall for that Green Dot scam. Besides, said Mehl, if some agency wants to arrest you they aren't going to threaten you, they'll just show up and get you.

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