Scammer claims to be Cold Spring police chief
By Chip Rowe
A telephone crook claiming to be Cold Spring Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke last week demanded that callers send immediate payment for a supposed tax debt under threat of arrest.
“This is a complete scam,” Burke said when told about the calls. “Neither I nor anyone from the Cold Spring Police Department would ever call anyone for any kind of payment owed,” particularly for a federal agency such as the Internal Revenue Service. Even notification of debts owed for traffic tickets and fines would be sent by mail through the Cold Spring Justice Court system, he said.
A lawyer and former Federal Trade Commission manager in Atlanta who spent years in telemarketing enforcement emailed The Current on Friday (April 13) saying his wife had received a robocall from someone who “breathlessly and imperatively” claimed to be from the Internal Revenue Service and demanded a return call to an 845 number or police would be on the way to arrest her.
The number registered in Newburgh to a wireless phone, was answered by a voicemail that said, “This is Detective Larry Burke of the Cold Spring Police Department. Please leave a message.”
That helped explain why a Q&A with the officer-in-charge that appeared in The Current in May 2017 has risen last week to become one of five most-viewed stories on the site as people who received the calls searched Google for “Larry Burke of Cold Spring Police Department.”
When a reporter called the number, it played a generic greeting and went to voicemail. As of April 19, its owner had not returned a message left by the Atlanta lawyer or The Current.
The former FTC manager, who asked not to be identified by name, said he found the call interesting in that “the scammers don’t seem to want money” since no one answered the call back.
“What they want to do is to confirm that the robocall targets are live people,” he said. “The Detective Burke character is what you’d call in the espionage world a ‘cut out.’ The call back was designed to confirm there was someone at the number who could be tapped for various scams. They must be running a comparison between their outgoing call list and their incoming calls. We got a second scam call almost immediately from a ‘veterans’ organization. Then yesterday I got one from another IRS scammer. That’s why I say the call to Burke was a qualification call; when I returned it, I qualified as a live victim.”
A number of police officers who have received calls that cite unpaid IRS bills and threaten arrest have recorded their responses and posted the videos online. In early March, a video made by an officer in Midland, Texas, went viral and has received more than 8 million views. The officer was told he owed $8,140; when he asked if he could mail a check, the scammer insisted the payment had to be made within 45 minutes with an (untraceable) electronic Apple Store gift card or the sheriff would soon be at the door. The officer responded: “When did the IRS start taking Apple cards? Is that a recent thing?”
The IRS has compiled a long list of ways that scammers attempt to rip people off. It notes that the IRS never demands immediate payment, never calls about taxes owed without first mailing a bill, never threatens to call the police to have someone arrested, never requires payment over the phone through a debit card, gift card or wire transfer and never requests credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
It advises anyone who receives a suspicious call to hang up and report it online or by calling 800-366-4484.
Michael Turton contributed reporting.