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Phone scam threatens Sedgwick County residents: Pay up or get deported

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, June 5, 2014, at 8:38 p.m.

One Sedgwick County resident lost $9,000 in the scam. But it wasn’t local business owner Fehmi Ayoub, who said he wasn’t worried when a man claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service called his home on Memorial Day, threatening to deport him if he didn’t pay.

He’s been an American citizen since 1977, he said.

“I don’t care about them because I know who I am,” said Ayoub, who emigrated from Lebanon. “It was bogus.”

Since Jan. 1, the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office has received 103 phone calls from local residents who have reported being the target of callers claiming to be with the IRS.

In at least two cases – Ayoub’s and the resident who lost the $9,000 – the scammers used official-sounding language and threatened Immigration and Customs Enforcement involvement, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Thursday.

In Ayoub’s case, the caller claimed to be an officer “from the treasury inspector general for tax administration” in Washington, D.C. He said a warrant had been filed against Ayoub and that the IRS “had very strong evidence against” him.

He asked that Ayoub or an attorney return his call.

“He’s just throwing in acronyms and sounds very official in name, (which could be) very intimidating for someone,” Bennett said.

He added: “There’s no legitimate agent of the government that’s going to call a citizen by phone and demand money (or) payment over the phone for back taxes” or other fees or fines.

In addition to deportation, the scammers also have been known to issue other threats, including arrests, business or drivers license suspensions and and cutting off utility services, said Sharon Werner, chief attorney of the DA office’s consumer protection division.

More than $1 million has been taken nationwide under the scam over the past five months, she said.

“They are preying on people based probably on the ethnic sound of a last name, and thinking that they will ... less likely to stand up to the threat of a government agent,” Bennett said.

“It’s very troubling.”

Phone and other scams can be reported to the DA’s consumer protection division by calling 1-316-660-3600 or 800-432-6878.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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