As if phone scams aren't already bad enough, an incident Tuesday that ended with a bomb threat reveals they can get even worse.
The story actually started with a "routine" scam call to a Rochester resident. The caller told the man he needed to send money to the IRS or a warrant would be issued for his arrest.
The Rochester man knew better, said Capt. John Sherwin, and told the caller he didn't believe the ruse. The two argued briefly, the report says, until the local man suggested they "meet at the government center and settle the matter."
After hanging up, the Rochester man called the IRS to confirm what he believed he already knew.
It appeared their exchange — and the man's refusal to believe the scam — angered the caller, Sherwin said.
In addition to continuing to call the local man and leaving messages in Hindu, the caller was able to "clone" the man's phone number. The caller and the Rochester resident are both of Indian descent, the report says.
Cloning a cell phone is relatively simple, Sherwin said. Culprits hack into a phone using software that is easily available; a few technical steps later, they can send messages and make calls to anyone and the original phone number will appear.
The scammer took it up a notch after cloning the Rochester man's phone: He began making calls to local law enforcement, making lewd and sexual comments — then claimed there was a bomb at the Olmsted County Government Center.
While authorities called in a bomb-sniffing dog and checked the building, others were working on identifying the caller.
The number was obviously traced to the Rochester man; officers found him at work. He told them about his earlier exchange with the would-be scammer, Sherwin said, and the pieces began to fall into place. The man's phone revealed he hadn't made the calls.
The caller made about eight or nine calls to dispatch, Sherwin said, leading officials to fairly quickly believe it may have been a hoax.
The government center wasn't evacuated, he said.
"It just looks like payback," Sherwin said. "He was attempting to cause problems because (the local man) wouldn't fall for the scam."
The incident is a reminder, he said, to hang up on a suspected scam call, contact the agency the caller claims to represent and never send money or personal information.