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IRS phone scam hits Idaho, Northwest

Wed., July 16, 2014, 2:30 p.m.

Jennifer Pedregon of Boise received one of the IRS scam calls; so did her parents. (Betsy Russell)
Jennifer Pedregon of Boise received one of the IRS scam calls; so did her parents. (Betsy Russell)

BOISE - A scam in which an aggressive caller masquerades convincingly as an IRS agent and demands immediate payment has spread into Idaho and the Northwest, and officials are warning folks to just hang up.

It’s a scam that’s grown nationwide in the past year, and now appears to be reaching our region; police in Moses Lake, Wash. intercepted a payment a victim sent in response to one of the calls three weeks ago at the post office and got the victim’s money back. Two Idaho women who got the calls termed them “scary.” They’re particularly targeting seniors and immigrants.

Brett DeLange, head of the Idaho Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, said, “The IRS is not going to call you and say you owe money. … That’s just not how they do business. You’re going to get a notice in the mail.” He said, “The most important message is hang up, and the sooner the better – don’t talk to these people. They’re criminals.”

Jennifer Pedregon of Boise said she heard her parents’ answering machine receive a call from what sounded like a real IRS agent – including badge number and phone number to call back – saying her dad owed taxes and needed to get back to the agent or face legal action within eight to 10 days. She was concerned, but then her cell phone rang, and she received an identical call, this time threatening her rather than her father. “I realized that that was probably not a legitimate IRS agent,” Pedregon said.

Deana DuVall of Meridian got a message on her answering machine from a heavily accented caller claiming to be an IRS agent and demanding a call back about her husband’s case. When she returned the call, the man demanded her phone number; she declined. “He started yelling at me,” she said. “He said, “We will have your husband arrested in 45 minutes – we’re coming.”

The man called back later that afternoon, DuVall said. “We knew it had to be fraud. But it was scary, because they knew personal things about my husband and me – we don’t know how.”

Both women filed complaints with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office; Wasden said complaints about the scam have been arriving at his office for the past several months from throughout the state.

Some of the scammers have managed to mask their phone numbers so it looks like the calls come from toll-free IRS numbers; some have correctly given the last four digits of the intended victim’s Social Security number.

The IRS warned in March that it had received more than 20,000 reports about the scam nationwide since October and that victims had been duped out of millions of dollars; J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for tax administration, called it “the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen.”

Wasden, who highlighted the scam as he released his office’s Consumer Protection Division annual report on Wednesday, said, “The best response is to simply hang up on these crooks.”


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