YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Dealing with the IRS can be a taxpayer’s worst nightmare, and scam artists know how to use that fear to steal millions from the American public.
Taxpayers everywhere are getting calls telling them to pay up or face the ire of the IRS.
Youngstown-area resident Andrea Lupton got one of those calls this week.
“I was under investigation for fraud, and I needed to have my attorney call as soon as possible,” Lupton said.
The caller told her she owed more than $2,000. And she had to act fast.
“‘Either we’re going to go ahead and notify the sheriff’s office and put a warrant out for your arrest, or, you’re going to pay this,'” Lupton said.
That’s when the warning bells went off. Lupton is a real estate agent and is familiar with tax laws. But the caller kept her on the phone for several minutes.
“If I wasn’t in business and I was just a regular person that paid my bills, I would want to make the IRS happy,” Lupton said.
The scam is spread all over the country. And catching the thieves is tricky.
“It’s hard to trace the calls themselves,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “Many times they spoof a number, they’re calling you from heavens knows where but they put up a 202 number because many people know that’s Washington, D.C.”
The scammers want you to pay by phone with a pre-paid debit card, a method that is nearly untraceable.
“No one wants to think the IRS is contacting them,” DeWine said. “So when they are called and told it’s the IRS on the phone, sometimes they lose all better judgement.”
Experts say don’t fall for the scam.
“If it’s a phone call, it’s fraudulent,” Vincent Flask of Liberty Tax Service said. “But if you get the call, talk to a professional preparer, they can guide you in what direction and who to contact.”
WKBN has obtained a copy of one of the paperwork for one of the only cases in the nation to prosecute someone for this type of tax scam.
For more info on this type of scam, watch an IRS video on the topic.