New scam with callers posing as IRS agents

We talk to experts about what to do if you get such a call

Scams involving people posing as IRS agents have ripped Californians off to the tune of more than $8 million over the last few years. The scams involve phone calls, and it’s even happened to a member of our CW6 family.

Over the course of a couple of days last week, CW6’s John Carroll got two such calls. His phone rang, showing a 202 area code, which is Washington, D.C. Carroll was suspicious, so didn’t answer. The caller left a message, and when he went to check it, this is what he heard.

4CW60013_01_frame_7228“The issue at hand is extremely time sensitive. I’m Officer Nikki Johnson from the Internal Revenue Service,” it said.

The caller went on to say that it was urgent Carroll call right away.  Carroll said the first thing he thought when he got the call was that it was obvious fraud. The IRS said that’s exactly what it was, and that brings up one critical piece of information.

“The IRS under no circumstance is going to call you out of the blue demanding an immediate tax payment, threatening arrest or threatening a lawsuit,” said IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino.

While the calls that Carroll received sounded obviously fraudulent, they don’t all sound that way. Others are more experienced at making you think they’re legit.

“Scare tactics play upon emotions,” said SDSU business ethics lecturer Dr. Wendy Patrick.

IRS SCAM SOTS_frame_1072Patrick said first and foremost, never, ever give any personal information over the phone. If someone calls you asking for such information, she said to hang up and then do some research.

“The little time that it would take to investigate whether the call they’re getting is legitimate could save them time and money in the long run,” Patrick said.

We did some of our own research. We typed in both numbers that called; they were only two digits off from each other. We found a bunch of websites where people reported an attempt to scam them. The IRS’ Raphael Tulino said it’s not that the IRS would never call you, but he said if the agency needs to reach you, they will send you several letters first.

His advice if you get such a call, “you can just hang up and ignore it.”

But it doesn’t, or it shouldn’t end with you just hanging up. Tulino asked that you report it to the Inspector General for Tax Administration. Just go to tigta.gov and you’ll see a red button labeled “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting.”

Tulino said these scams really picked up steam a few years ago. In addition to the $8 million lost by Californians, the IRS scams have cost folks across the country $40 million at last count.

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