CONSUMER ALERT | IRS warns Hoosiers of phone scam

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(March 24, 2014) – An update now to a FOX59 Consumer Alert we first told you about last week.

Federal authorities want to warn you about what could be the largest phone scam ever. Scammers are posing as IRS agents and targeting Hoosiers in particular.

FOX59 is taking action for you. We spoke with the IRS and a New Palestine man who was targeted. Here are the warning signs and red flags you need to be aware of.

“I knew there were telephone scams, I knew there were letter scams,” said Jonathan Palmer. He didn’t know there were IRS telephone scams.

“We were concerned at first and we kept saying this isn’t real,” he told FOX59.

Despite being on the “no call” list, Palmer and his wife got a very difficult to understand voice message on their home answering machine.

The message says in part:

“This message is intended to contact Jonathan. Hi, this is Rob – Robert Williams with the Department of Legal Affairs at the U.S. Treasury, and I was trying to reach you in regards to a very important issue. The number to reach me is 559-328-2378. If for any reason you are busy to call back, I would suggest you to have your retain attorney to do it for you, as delay in calling us might end up into a legal mess for you. Until then, have a blessed day and God bless.”

“(I believe) the caller was reading from a script and he stumbled over my name, stumbled over his own name,” Palmer said. “My wife said it’s key at the end where they say God bless and have a wonderful day or whatever, well that’s nice to hear but I’m not sure the government’s going to be giving you those greetings.”

Palmer didn’t call back, but we did. The number out of Avenal, Calif., had been disconnected.

Turns out, Palmer was the target of a nationwide IRS phone scam that has already taken in more than $1 million.

“Tax time brings out the crooks from any nook and cranny every single year, and this year in particular we have a very ugly phone scam,” said Luis Garcia, a spokesman with the IRS.

Garcia says these scammers are very sophisticated. They use fake caller IDs, a script and give their name and badge number. But, he says, the IRS rarely makes phone calls. Only after you’ve received a pile of letters, will they call you.

“We’re not going to ask that you make a payment to a Green Dot credit card or wire transfer, especially to an overseas account. We don’t work that way,” he said.

“No matter what anyone tells you about aggressive tactics or no matter what you’ve seen in the movies, or what other people say, the IRS is not going to threaten you or use vulgar language, which is another technique they use to shock people into thinking they have to pay right away,” Garcia said.

At this point, Garcia doesn’t know why scammers are targeting Indiana in particular, but he does know they are targeting immigrants and elderly people. Folks like Jonathan Palmer.

“Older folks, they’re not up on technology, they don’t understand when people have bad intentions against them,” Palmer said.

If you receive a suspicious phone call or voicemail – hang up immediately.

If you truly believe it was the IRS, then call them directly at 1-800-829-1040 or 1-800-TAX-1040.