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April 6th, 2014

 

National IRS Phone Scam Targets Eastern Iowa Taxpayers

 

National IRS Phone Scam Targets Eastern Iowa TaxpayersApril 15th, or tax day, already frightens some people, but this tax period there’s another new issue. The Internal Revenue Service warned just recently that thousands of taxpayers have actually gotten bilked in a phone fraud by lawbreakers masquerading as tax representatives. And the concern is even more individuals will fall victim as April 15th draws near.

But one Cedar Rapids woman has a word of caution. Scammers are making those calls to eastern Iowa as well.

IRS officials said the most up to date phone scam includes a call from someone claiming to be an IRS representative and demanding immediate payment to settle a tax expense. If the caller leaves a voice message, the call back number has a (202) area code that represents Washington, D.C. Those who get the initial call, or call back, are threatened with arrest if they do not settle their tax claims.

Tamara Karamitros said she got a shock when she played back a voice mail Thursday. It was the scam call with the message stating, in part, “… if you are unable to get back to us, I’m sorry but we will need to process legal action”.

Karamitros stated she did call back and was informed unless she paid $1,048 to settle her bill, she would be arrested.

“It was pure worry and intimidation. They told me that if I did not solve this tax penalty today that I would be dealing with $25,000 to $30,000 in legal costs and 3 to 4 years in prison,” Karamitros said.

She stated the phony IRS agent asked for a cell phone number and informed her to get in the automobile and drive to a nearby store to purchase a pre-paid cash card to settle the tax debt. Karamitros stated she went, but started getting suspicious. When she got to the shop, the with phony IRS representative still on her cell phone line, she asked one of the employees offering the debit cards if this sounded genuine.

Karamitros stated the worker right away got her cellular phone.

“She at that point talked to the gentleman on the phone and said ‘this is a rip-off’ then we disconnected.”.

Barbara Green, who runs the Better Business Bureau office in Cedar Rapids, said she’s heard of the IRS scam nationally. And she recently got a call from someone who had a comparable message on their voice mail.

“I did call the number (left on voice mail) and I requested for the name and physical address. Obviously, they hung up on me,” Green said.

Green stated while the (202) area code suggested a call to Washington, D.C. she thinks the fraudsters are actually routing calls to another country to stay clear of detection.

Karamitros said she did some computer searching after her near-miss scamming. She swiftly discovered details about the scheme which may have involved as many as 20,000 victims nationwide.

The IRS states complaints about the bogus tax agent calls started coming in last fall. However tax officials fear the calls will magnify as the tax due date comes closer. Any person who wants to look at whether they owe any taxes can call 1-800-829-1040 to find out. Those who fear they’ve been targeted by scammers can call the Tax Administration office at 1-800-366-4484. It’s also possible to submit a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission by e-mail at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

Green stated if the IRS needs to call taxpayers, there is usually a letter sent initially. And the IRS never ever insists you wire cash or make use of a debit card or pre-paid money card to make tax payments.

 

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