By Brenda Flanagan
Listen to this phone scammer! He’s threatening to send the cops to our front door if we don’t pay a phony IRS tax bill. He wants five grand.
“The officers are on the way to arrest you! They come to you! Do you want to get arrested? They are going to go there!”
The guy’s a total fraud — one of thousands using foreign, computer-generated phone calls scheming to scare you and cheat you. Here’s how we met: scammers left a phone message for an NJTV News producer:
“This call is officially a final notice from IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuit against you.”
They left a number. So, we decided to dial-a-scammer and show you how they work. They claimed to be with the Treasury Department.
“This is Kevin Peterson, U.S. Treasury. Who am I talking to?” he asked. “My name is Shelley,” I replied. “What’s your last name ma’am? …Walker?” he asked. “Walker, yes,” I said.
They didn’t really care who I was, but they claimed I owed back taxes from three years ago. They wanted the money.
“I owe $5,000?” I asked. He replied, “$5,179.”
“I didn’t do anything on purpose,” I replied. Kevin said, “The thing is, there is a tax evasion case filed in your name. That is a financial crime. The minute we hang up this call, the warrant will be executed in 45 minutes. An IRS investigating officer will be there in 45 minutes to arrest you for tax evasion today. They have to freeze your bank accounts, they have to put a lien on your property.”
The scammer then offered to void the arrest warrant — call off the cops — if we paid up. He ordered us to stay on our cell phone while he listened. He thinks we’re taking a cab to the bank to withdraw cash. Our executive producer played bank teller, counting out the hundreds.
Kevin the scammer warned us not to tell anybody that we’re paying the IRS. Just get the money.
“So you don’t have to violate any laws, and you don’t have to get arrested for nine years. I hope you understand that, right,” he said. “Nine years?” I asked. “Yes, ma’am,” he said.
These scammers demanded money grams. They’re tough to trace. He ordered us to head for Walmart and gives us account names for payment. At that point, we’d had enough.
“I am not going to send you money. I think that what you’re doing is a fraud. I think what you’re doing is illegal,” I said. “OK ma’am if you think that, I will send the officers to arrest you,” he said.
“I don’t think I’m going to lose any sleep worrying about an officer coming to arrest me, Kevin,” I replied. “Sir, you are conducting a fraud. You are a scam artist!”
They hung up on us.
What does Patricia Svarnas, IRS Field Media Relations, think of this?
“Unfortunately it’s really widespread, and it’s happening throughout the country. And so we’ve heard the ecact same script, unfortunately,” she said. “Over and over again, yeah.”
We showed our video to Svarnas who described a veritable plague of phone fraud aimed at unsuspecting U.S. taxpayers. Some 5,000 have gotten fleeced out of more than $26 million over the past three years. Don’t buy it.
“Number one, we don’t call you out of the blue. Generally you receive a letter in the mail first. Number two, we never threaten people over the phone, saying you’re going to be arrested, deported, you’re going to have an audit. Any of those things are red flags,” Svarnas said.
She said the scams peak during tax season. If you get a call, don’t give these guys any information. In fact, hang up and report them at irs.gov, or at a Treasury Department website that handles phone scam complaints. Bad guys like Kevin probably won’t get caught.
“And that’s the hard thing. When they’re overseas, it’s hard to track them down,” Svarnas said.
What’s important is that you don’t get scammed, especially for older relatives who might be more vulnerable to these kind of scare tactics.