Jewel Fijux was watching TV at home when his phone rang.
“She just said that she was an IRS agent and that there was a considerable amount of money that I owed and that it was very important that I call this number,” Fijux said.
The 73-year-old Coral Springs resident did not return the call.
“I knew it was a scam as soon as she mentioned the IRS,” he said.
Fijux is a retired Long Island cop who has seen plenty of cons before.
“I know the IRS would never call you at the house,” Fijux said. “They send you letters.”
It turns out Fijux was right.
Michael Dobzinski, a spokesperson with the Internal Revenue Service, says the agency is very familiar with the imposters making these types of calls and the high-pressure tactics they use to extort people’s money. They often threaten an imminent arrest, loss of the person’s driver’s license, and deportation.
“They try to keep you on the phone until you pay the money and try to get you to a check-cashing store,” Dobzinski said.
According to the IRS, while the imposters cast a wide net, they are especially interested in seniors and recent immigrants who might be naïve enough to believe their threats.
An IRS imposter left a message on the home phone of an NBC 6 employee. It had a warning apparently meant to instill fear: “The reason of this call is to inform you that I-R-S is filing lawsuit against you."
And it’s working.
The IRS says in the past two years, over 3,400 people have been swindled out of more than $18 million – about $1 million in Florida alone.
"The worst part is people losing money unnecessarily," Dobzinski said, adding that if people make a payment using a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer, you have no recourse to get that money back.
Dobzinski says federal investigators try to shut down these operations but it’s tough because most of them are overseas. In the meantime, innocent people continue to get taken.
Fijux worries about more people forking over money to the IRS imposters.
“They are going to panic and say ‘oh boy’ and then turn around and send some money, whatever they are asking for,” Fijux said.
IRS officials say the agency does not sue taxpayers because that’s the role of the U.S. Department of Justice. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by phone, e-mail and/or text messages or call people to demand immediate payment. All correspondence is done by U.S. mail.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be the IRS and asking or money, here’s what you should do:
-Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040, if you think you owe taxes. IRS workers can arrange a payment plan, if necessary.
- Do not give out your social security number to any individuals or institutions that you are not familiar with.
-If you are certain you don’t owe any taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, at 1-800-366-4484 or report it online at the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting Page.
-If you have been targeted by this scam, you can also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their -FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov. If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.