Central Indiana woman caught up in ‘IRS scam’ bought $35,000 in gift cards, police say

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 29: iTunes song gift cards are seen on display at a Best Buy store December 29, 2005 in San Francisco, California. Retailers experience a rise in gift card sales this holiday season and hope that customers will redeem them during post holiday sales since gift cards do not register as a sale until they are redeemed. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. – A 75-year-old Johnson County woman sent $35,000 in Amazon and iTunes gift cards to scammers who claimed she owed money to the IRS.

The woman got caught up in the frequently seen scam, according to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, in which scammers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service call or email victims to tell them they owe money to the government.

The woman, whose name was redacted in the report, told investigators that she received the first email in May 2017. She called the phone number listed in the email and was told she owed money. She paid the “debt” by buying gift cards, taking pictures of the numbers and texting them to different phone numbers.

After she sent the first card, scammers continued to contact her, saying she owed even more money. She continued to buy gift cards. Police said she didn’t know exactly how many times this happened, telling investigators that “it was a lot,” according to the incident report.

She stopped sending the gift cards in November 2017, she told police. She sent the cards to three different phone numbers and said she talked to a man named “Dean Smith on the phone and he had an accent.”

By the time she stopped sending the gift cards, the woman had spent $35,000, police said.

Family members noticed there was a problem when the woman was unable to pay her rent and expenses. When they checked her bank account, they noticed money was missing. The woman then told her family about the IRS scam.

The case remains under investigation.