U area sees rise in phone scams

Students and other local residents have lost thousands of dollars to the scams.

Aaron Job

The Minneapolis Police Department warned residents Friday of a phone scam that has vexed several residents and students in the University of Minnesota area in recent weeks. 
Last week, two incidents in the University area resulted in over $1,600 in losses, according to police reports.
In a similar incident late last month, a student lost $500 to what she thought was a student loan collection agency.
Both victims said they were asked to buy iTunes gift cards after receiving calls from numbers they didn’t recognize. The callers insisted they owed money for taxes and that there was a warrant out for their arrest. 
In a Facebook post and message to residents of the 2nd Precinct, which includes part of the University’s Twin Cities campus and surrounding neighborhoods, Minneapolis police encouraged people to not answer calls from unknown numbers and said the Internal Revenue Service  typically contacts people through mail. 
Ryan Kruse, a FedEx delivery driver who lives in the Como neighborhood, said callers who said they were from the IRS told him he owed the agency $6,000.
He said they told him he could face seven years in prison if he failed to pay the debt and that he must pay $500 that day or he would be arrested. 
According to Kruse, the scammer’s number showed that it was from a police department in Washington. 
Upon returning a call to the number and asking for the officer he had spoken to before, the Washington state police department said there wasn’t any one there with that name, he said. 
Kruse said he was told to buy an iTunes gift card and read the serial numbers to the scammer. 
“He was very stern about the fact that I keep this confidential and that I not tell anyone this was going on,” Kruse said. “That should’ve been clue No. 1 right there.”
The scammer then asked for $1,500 more, claiming that it would make Kruse’s warrant go away.
Kruse said his fiance told him it was a scam, at which point he reported the incident to police. 
A University student, who declined to comment, reported $1,100 loss due to a similar scam, according to police documents. 
Police said that there has been a rash of cases similar to this in the past month. 
Minneapolis 2nd Precinct crime prevention specialist Nick Juarez said the scams could be linked to tax season. 
University of Minnesota Police Department Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said this is a trend law enforcement agencies have seen across the nation. 
In its message to precinct residents, Minneapolis police said to never give out personal or financial information over the phone to help avoid being scammed.