Say what you will about the Internal Revenue Service, at least they won’t call you at work and threaten you with immediate arrest if you don’t give them money now. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says the IRS uses the mail. That’s an important distinction because nearly a million people nationwide in the last three years have gotten calls from someone claiming to be with the IRS demanding money.
In Idaho this scam has reached “epidemic levels,” according to the Attorney General’s (AG) office. The AG doesn’t know how many Idahoans have gotten these calls but a spokesman says their consumer protection division is getting more calls on this scam than on any other type of fraud, ever.
Cindy Dorst was at work in her office at a Boise company that distributes medical implants when she got the call on her cell phone.
“They said they were with the IRS and that the police were going to be dispatched to my location if I didn’t give them a certain amount of money that they wanted,” Dorst says. “And I immediately hung up.”
Dorst says that call was a live person who sounded very angry. A couple days later she says she got a prerecorded call that said the same things also in an angry tone. She hung up on that call as well. She says to her it was clear that it was a scam.
“I just knew immediately that the IRS does not ever . . . they just don’t do that,” she says. “They don’t send the police to come get you, that’s not the police’s job. You would get a letter in the mail or something like that.”
To Dorst it was obvious, but according to the AG’s office more than 5,000 people nationally have fallen for this scam and lost more than $26 million. And that’s just the cases that have been reported to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Dorst says a big tip off for her was that the people on the other end of her calls sounded like they were not native speakers of English. She says their accents were convincing but they didn’t have the words in the right order.
These criminals can be pretty sophisticated though. They can sometimes make it so people’s caller ID says IRS. On the phone they sometimes give out a fake IRS badge numbers and sometimes send emails along with the calls.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says because of the volume of complaints they are receiving, the IRS scam has become the top concern in his office.
“With the tax season in full swing, it’s especially critical for Idaho consumers to be aware of this scam and the intent of criminals to take people’s hard-earned money,” Wasden says. “If someone calls impersonating an IRS agent and demanding payment with a debit card, money order or wire transfer to satisfy a tax debt, the best course of action is simply hanging up the phone.”
Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam
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