GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A West Michigan woman says she's fed-up with scammers -- so when she got a fake call from a fake IRS agent -- she played along.
It's become one of the most common scams and despite educational efforts, people are still becoming victims.
For Terri Beck it all started with a phone call from someone with a foreign accent. When she answered, he said “Ma'am, we are a fraud investigation department letting you know about a tax fraud investigation with the IRS."
Black says she didn’t believe the person, but recorded the call anyway.
"I was minding my own business and I get shaken down in my own kitchen by some scam artist lying to me, pretending to be a U-S government official," she said. "The guy was a little obnoxious, so I had a little fun with him."
Black says she asked him about her federal income tax, in which the caller replied, "What I'm saying is you didn't file taxes."
According to Black, the caller wasn't very good at the scam, but she stayed on the line -- just to hear what came next.
"I figured the time he spends on the phone with me, was 6 minutes he didn't have to take advantage of somebody else’s mother, grandmother, or aunt," Black says.
The caller said Terri owed $10,820.
"Either you go to federal court of Washington DC with your attorney and file a case with us," the caller explained. "Or you can resolve it by paying now to the IRS."
Black says she never asked how she could pay, but in most cases, the caller will suggest a pre-paid debit card or ask you to wire money. They might also threaten to send an FBI agent to your house and arrest you.
According to the IRS, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to these tax scams. IRS Spokesperson Raphael Tulino says the only outside agencies authorized to contact taxpayers about their unpaid tax accounts is one of four authorized private debt collection agencies.
"They should be professional and courteous," Tulino says. "And not demand immediate tax payment, because you have every right to appeal the amount you owe."
Tulino says any affected taxpayer will be notified by the IRS by mail first, not the private collection agency.
"Basically, these are old accounts -- years old and we tried multiple times to reach the taxpayer," Tulino explained.
Black says she knew right away that it was a scam. But, con-artists aren’t always as easy to identify. She wants others to be careful.
"The fear of government dragging you out of your house; it might have sparked someone to crack open a check book and give these people money," she says. "They weren't going to get me today and hopefully they're not going to get anyone else."
If you ever have doubt, it's best to call the IRS at 1-800-366-4484 or visit their website for more information.
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