IRS impersonation scam still claiming victims

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It’s July and tax season may be over, but that isn’t stopping scammers impersonating IRS agents from calling to collect whatever they can steal from unwitting victims, reports Detective Lisa Jardine of the Beaumont Police Department.

Jardine’s own family was recently the target of such a scam, but the longtime law enforcer didn’t fall prey to the confidence trick and instead had a little fun of her own.

“My husband called me and said he received a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS,” Jardine related. “They told my husband he owed money and needed to pay, or he would be indicted.”

Jardine took the callback number down and got on the phone with the would-be scammer.

“A woman got on the phone, and I immediately identified myself. I said, ‘This is Detective Lisa Jardine of the Beaumont Police Department, and I am calling because my husband just received a call saying he would be indicted if he didn’t send money.’ “She proceeded to tell me that there were problems with our tax returns from previous years. ... I asked, ‘Did you not hear who I am? I am a detective with the Beaumont Police Department.’ Then, click, she immediately hung up.”

On another phone call with the scammer, the scammer threatened to send police to arrest the officer’s husband, to which Jardine replied, “Tell them I’ll put on a fresh pot of coffee.” The Examiner reported on the IRS impersonation scam in February 2015 when it was at its height, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the IRS, and spoke to Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Damon Rowe of the IRS-CI, the criminal investigations unit of the IRS.      

“IRS impersonation scams typically target elderly people, people they can reach at home,” he said. “What they do is impersonate an IRS officer and make threatening gestures, saying they will call the police, demanding money. They demand that you go get a debit card for some certain amount, say $2,000, that they say you owe.” For law-abiding citizens who worry about potential repercussions from the IRS, the calls can be disconcerting. “People who may fear actions against them by the IRS, they go ahead and give them (money),” SAC Rowe related.

BBB dispute resolution specialist Jay Sheppard said the BBB still receives calls about the IRS scam regularly, and Jardine said she isn’t the only one who recently received a call from the old scam. She spoke to a local man who fell for the scam to the tune of about $5,000. “It was the same scam, but he actually sent them about $5,000,” Jardine said of the victim. “He said he wasn’t sure it was really the IRS, but then they threatened to have him arrested if he didn’t pay right away.”

The con artists had the man go purchase a cash card and give them the information to collect the money. He did so without calling the IRS, the BBB or the police, all excellent sources for information on potential scams; all would have told the man not to pay. Jardine said if anyone receives a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS and asking for immediate payment over the phone, “I can guarantee it’s not the IRS.”

She said don’t fall for the fear tactics. Call the police or the BBB to find out if you’re being marked by a con artist. The BBB can be reached at (409) 835-5348. BPD can be reached at (409) 832-1234.