Plant City man falls for 'IRS impersonator' scam, Winn Dixie comes to his rescue

Posted at 11:42 AM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-26 18:30:27-04

Even a former law enforcement officer can fall for a well-crafted scam.

Former Florida Highway patrolman Ralph Hough, 79, recently found himself taking money out of his bank account and reading scratch off numbers to a mysterious man over the phone, believing he would be arrested if he didn't obey orders.

Hough was down $4,000 and was about to be out another $4,000 when a Winn Dixie employee where Hough was making the purchases asked if there was something wrong and if he wanted to talk to a local police officer.

Plant City Police tell ABC Action News that Hough fell for an increasingly common "IRS scam" in which someone claims they are with the Internal Revenue Service and demands the victim pay them back immediately or face a stiff penalty.

Hough tells police roped into the scam at first when he received a letter in the mail, claiming to be from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, saying that purchases made recently by his wife were items from China and the purchases were made illegally.

He then received a phone call from a New York area code from someone claiming to be from the IRS. The person on the phone line demanded that Hough go to his local grocery store and purchase $4,000 in Google Play cards, and then had Hough scratch and then read off the numbers on the back of the cards.

Hough says the person on the phone told him he could go to jail if he didn't comply.

That fraud happened on March 27, 2018, and the fake IRS caller rang again the very next day demanding Hough buy and read them even more Google Play numbers.

That's when a manager at the Winn Dixie on Alexander Street in Plant City stopped Hough and urged him to reconsider. They eventually called Plant City Police.

But Winn Dixie didn't stop there.

After Police investigated, and were able to fully tell Hough what had happened, Winn Dixie decided to try to make things up to Hough.

The company is planning to hand Hough a check in the amount he was scammed! It will go a long way for Hough, who has been caring for his wife who recently suffered a stroke.

Hough served as a highway patrolman in Florida for nearly three decades, says Hough's daughter.

Police also warned the Hough family that they will likely be targeted in the future by scammers now that they've been defrauded once before.

To learn more about this recent "IRS Scam" please click HERE.