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Everett PD warns of spike of government scam calls

A 74-year-old woman recently walked into an Everett Safeway and attempted to buy thousands in gift cards. The store refused to sell them to her, however, which turned out to be a lucky turn of events for the woman.

Last month, the woman was contacted by someone from the IRS who said she owed four years worth of taxes — totaling $75,000. The government representative demanded payment in the form of Google Play gift cards, or else she would be arrested and put in jail that day.

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That call led to a quick bank withdrawal of $5,600 and a trip to the grocery store, where she was stopped by the store director. Instead of selling the cards, the store called 911. This scenario is a common scam. The person on the phone was not actually from the IRS.

The Everett Police Department is warning residents about a rise in scam calls with people claiming to be from the government. The calls generally demand immediate payment for overdue accounts. For example, the IRS supposedly calling for owed taxes.

The scammers have been requesting payment via prepaid gift cards which are more difficult to track. A request for gift cards to pay the government may sound odd to some, but still, some residents are falling for it. So much that the Federal Trade Commission has a webpage dedicated just for this type of scam.

In another incident, also in April, a victim in Everett was contacted over the phone and told he was owed a $10,000 refund from the government. To get the money, the man was told he had to pay a $1,500 transaction fee. The scammer also requested a Google Play gift card to pay the fee. The man complied, but the scammer continued, and requested more “fees” over the coming weeks — which he paid. In the end, the man paid $60,000 to the scammer with Google Play gift cards.

“Most scammers start out nice, but turn aggressive, threatening and rude,” said Financial Crimes Sergeant Matt Mekelburg. “We don’t want residents to be victimized. Remember, gift cards are for gifts and you can never pay a government debt with one.”

If you suspect a scam, the Everett Police Department asks residents to call the non-emergency phone number at 425-407-3999.

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