BOISE – A scam in which an aggressive caller masquerades as an IRS agent demanding immediate payment has spread into Idaho and the Northwest.
Officials want folks to just hang up.
Police in Moses Lake 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, according to the Associated Press. Two Idaho women who got the calls termed them “scary.”
The scams particularly target 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.”
DeLange urged people who get such calls to hang up, “the sooner the better.” He added, “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. The person claimed her dad owed taxes and needed to call or face legal action within eight to 10 days.
Pedregon was concerned, she said, but then her cellphone 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,” she said.
Deana DuVall of Meridian, Idaho, 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.”