Thieves steal customer list, then use threats to scam them
MIAMI, Fla. – It began with a phone call. An urgent voice on the other end of the line threatened her with a lawsuit.
"It's scary when somebody calls you and says they are going to take all of your property," said Dinorah Sargavo.
Sargavo bought products that were being sold on television. Con-artists stole the list of customers and then called them, claiming the consumers had failed to pay for their purchases and were now facing lawsuits and thousands of dollars in fines.
"They were given an option at the end, which seemed like a great option, instead of having to hire an attorney have to travel to Washington to go to court instead of doing seven days of community service, you can make one settlement payment," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Bryan Masmela.
For $200 or $300, the whole problem would go away.
"All of the calls were made to Spanish speaking Hispanic consumers, many people hadn't been in the country very long, they didn't know their rights, they didn't realize they can't be sued for failing to receive a product," Masmela said.
"How I feel? Very mad. I feel angry. It's not fair. I work very hard for everything that I have," Sargavo added.
She was not alone. There more than 1,000 victims and $2 million in losses.
"If you want money, you have to work very hard by yourself, by your own job," said Sargavo.
Postal inspectors say there is one major warning sign for a scam like this one: The caller's sense of urgency.
"They scare them and force them to make the payment right away," Masmela said.
"If somebody call me and say I have to spend money, I just call police and customer affairs if it's true. I need to be sure. Now I need to be sure before I pay anything," Sargavo added.
Inspectors say the two suspects in this case were charged with mail fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and attempted extortion. They are awaiting sentencing.
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