Hub for reliable, timely news about COVID-19 pandemic

“They scare them and force them to make the payment:” Phone scam targets customers buying products on TV

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

MIAMI (WITI) — It begins with a phone call — an urgent voice on the other end of the line and the threat of a lawsuit. It all adds up to a multi-million dollar scam targeting vulnerable victims who have no idea they're being taken for a ride.

"It's scary when somebody calls you and says they are going to take all of your property," said fraud victim, Dinorah Sargavo.

Sargavo got a frightening call after she bought products being sold on television.

Con artists stole the list of customers and called them. Once they got customers on the line, they claimed 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 victims could make the whole problem 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 said.

Sargavo 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," Sargavo said.

There is one major warning sign for a scam like this — the caller's sense of urgency.

"They scare them and force them to make the payment right away," Masmela revealed.

"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 said.

Postal inspectors say the two suspects in this case were charged with mail fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and attempted extortion.

They are awaiting sentencing.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.