Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 10, 2013

A new low Scammers portraying DEA agents


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Just how low are scammers willing to go? Consider what happened just last week to a Mercer County woman, who was contacted by a man claiming he represented the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

The man claiming to be a DEA agent told the unsuspecting woman that federal authorities were going to arrest her because dietary supplements she had purchased online contained crack cocaine. The woman was concerned — as would most citizens who receive such a call would be.

However, it soon became clear to the woman that the man claiming to be a DEA agent was in fact a scammer. He told the woman there was a way out of the federal charges. And of course it involved giving out either bank account information, credit cards or Social Security numbers. In another words, he was trying to gain access to her personal information — and her bank account in particular.

The woman, who requested that her name not be used in print, said the first call arrived on a Monday. It was a message left on her answering machine stating the DEA needed her to call. The number had a Washington area code, so it seemed legitimate at least for the moment.

“The message said they were with the DEA and that I needed to get back in touch with them as soon as possible, and that it was concerning an ongoing drug investigation,” the woman recalled. “I called back and just got a recording, and left it at that. Then at 7:15 (p.m.) I got a call from Burnet, Texas.”

The woman then called the Texas number with a 512 area code. The person who answered the phone said his name was “Josh Synder.” He didn’t sound like he was from Texas, and had a foreign accent. The man claimed the woman had ordered online medications for her husband about 10 years ago that were filled with crack cocaine. The man then claimed an investigation was underway and the woman was about to be arrested. But of course if she agreed to pay $78,000 in advance, she wouldn’t go to jail.

The woman wisely realized it was a scam, and the told the man that his claim was “ridiculous” and an obvious scam. She then correctly reported the caller — and the phone numbers left on her answering machine — to the West Virginia State Police.

Interestingly enough, the scammers had dug deep enough into the family’s history, as the woman had purchased for herself and her late husband dietary supplements such as fish oil, saw palmetto, and a product called CoQ10. Somehow the scammers were able to track down this information, and twist it. The scam is currently being investigated by Sgt. D.W. Miller, detachment commander of the West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment.

As scams targeting folks in the region continue to become more elaborate, area residents are reminded of the need to be extra vigilant. And with the looming Oct. 1 implementation date of Obamacare, we are already seeing an increase in scams related to the new Affordable Care Act law.

We urge all citizens in our region to be on alert for such fraudulent calls. Never give out personal information over the telephone if you can’t verify the validity of the caller. Get the number of the caller, hang up and contact your local law enforcement agency.

With your help, these scammers such as this bogus DEA agent can be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.