High Country Targeted By IRS Phone Scam – by Rick Langenberg

IRS_tax_scamAn elaborate and fake IRS (Internal Revenue Service) scam that targeted thousands of Southern Colorado residents, including many people in Teller County and the Pikes Peak region, has become the subject of a congressional inquiry.
The issue was addressed last week by a Senate committee in Washington D.C., following reports of many people getting victimized and losing considerable money. The average person who fell for this scam lost an estimated $5,000.
However, despite the outcries over this phony national operation, the massive scam has only resulted in a handful of prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice. This has many Americans crying foul, and asking why their lawmakers aren’t more vigilant about this issue.
These scams, done in coordination with tax season, have successfully netted more than $15.5 million since 2013, according to national media reports.
And this year a fairly sophisticated scam operation, reported by KKTV news, hit home with a record number of Colorado taxpayers getting targeted by callers, using fake badge numbers and threatening victims with demands they pay supposed back levies with prepaid debit cards. They also reportedly threaten the victim with the loss of their business and their driver’s license. Altogether, KKTV recently reported that more than 430,000 people have been conned in this scam, with 10,000 calls occurring on a daily basis.
According to the Moneymax TV station, a government watchdog group, called the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, has received 9,000 and 12,000 complaints regarding IRS phone scams a week. The average victim loss of this scam is estimated at $5,000.
The scam is part of an effort to not only steal money from the victim, but also to confiscate their identity, according to officials.
In their initial recorded messages, the scammers, who identify themselves as representatives of the IRS, tell victims that this is their final warning and that the agency intends to sue them, and urges them to call a certain long-distance number immediately. If a person actually talks to an IRS scammer, then the reported threats begin. Some local residents have reported receiving several of these recorded messages at their home phone within a short time frame. The calls are done through a voice that almost mimics that of a typical credit collection agency, and appears quite authentic.
In most cases, the phone messages are blocked or the scammers use a false phone identification number, or they come from a spoof office.
Officials, though, are urging residents to view these messages with caution and to absolutely not reveal their identities. Security experts advise people to guard their phones with the same protective measures as they do with their computers.
Also, residents should know that the IRS never demands money over the phone. In fact, a taxpayer will be contacted through the mail and a hearing will be set up, if the agency believes he/she owes back taxes. All requests for money by the IRS will be done through official correspondence. Plus, the agency doesn’t have the authority to revoke a person’s driver’s license,
Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger stated in an e-mail that his agency is aware of these fake IRS calls. He advises any Teller resident, who is targeted by the scam, to contact the sheriff’s office at 719-687-9652.