Phone-spoofing scam targeting separated military families

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A Navy corpsman and wife of a deployed sailor is speaking out after she says she was taken by a scam targeting military families.

"I feel sick to my stomach. I really do," said Holli Carias.

One day later, an upset Carias talked about the phone call that cost her thousands.

"He said, 'I'm Kevin Smith with the U.S. Department of Treasury and gave an ID number,'" said Carias.

The man said her husband, a gunner's mate deployed to Bahrain, was responsible for $2,500 in unpaid taxes, and if she hung up, it would trigger the filing of a lawsuit and the seizure of bank accounts.

"I was also told that the government would find him and lock him up for six months," said Carias.

Overcome with emotion, she admits she was not thinking clearly and agreed to pay $2,500.

"That's all I wanted to do is protect him," said Carias, choking back tears.

Still holding her cellphone, Carias says the man asked to get in her car and go to the nearest Rite Aid. Once she arrived, she was given more specific instructions.

She says she was ordered to put $500 on each of five prepaid MoneyPak cards before reading him the scratched-off codes on the back.

He wanted her to mail him all the codes, which she knew could wipe out any trace of spending on the card.

About the same time, her sister-in-law – who was called by the same man – texted Carias saying the she had done an Internet search on the phone number 727-302-1145 and that it had revealed the Florida number was being used by scammers.

Carias hung up, but she says he immediately called back with caller IDs reading 911 and a number from San Diego police. During one of the calls, a voicemail was left.

"I want you to call me back," said the man.

"He spoke with what sounded like an Indian accent," said Carias.

The use of "phone spoofing" and fake caller IDs, now possible with free apps and software, is growing in popularity with scammers.

Team 10 reported about its use in recent scams threatening San Diego Gas & Electric clients with shutoffs.

As for the most recent scam, Carias has filed a police report and called Team 10 to get the word out.        

“We serve our country and defend everyone and this happens," she said. "It doesn’t make sense. I don't want this to happen to anyone else."

Team 10 called the Florida number and heard the same man's voice in a recorded greeting, claiming to be a member of the U.S Treasury Department. Team 10 reached out to officials with the U.S. Treasury Department but did not receive a call back.

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