ELDERTON (KDKA) — Jennifer Redick was in the process of preparing her 2015 incomes taxes when the phone rang with an alarming message.
It said: “Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately on our department number.”
Even though current on all of her taxes, it came as a shock.
“When you hear someone saying they’re from the IRS, it is a shock,” said Redick.
Almost as quickly, Redick, who is the borough treasurer in the little town of Elderton, Armstrong County, realized it was a scam and thought immediately of scammers preying on folks like her elderly neighbors.
She called the number back to tell the impersonator she wasn’t falling for it.
“I’m like, ‘No, I know that you’re lying, and it’s a shame that you’re calling people and putting them through this,” said Redick.
Savvy enough not to be taken, Redick is one of the lucky ones.
Hundreds of Pennsylvanians have forked over $800,000 to the con artists, who have raked in more than $28 million nationwide.
“Aggressive, industrious, persistent, clever – all of the above,” said Thomas Czerski, a U.S. Treasury agent.
Now the con artists are branching out into email.
In the latest phishing scam – you get an email claiming to be from the IRS. It says they need to verify a few details in your recently filed return – social security numbers, bank accounts or credit card numbers.
Czerski says it’s a very seductive pitch.
“If someone is thinking they are due a refund, then they’re all too eager to provide that information and it’s not ending up in the hands of the IRS,” he says.
But the real IRS doesn’t use email to solicit personal information or the phone to collect debts. That’s something that Redick remembered after watching KDKA’s recent report on scammer a few weeks back.
“I may not have caught it as quickly if I hadn’t watched your report saying the IRS will only contact you through the mail, not over the phone,” Redick said.
But the scammers are relentless, especially now that the tax deadline is approaching, and they can reach anyone with a phone or a computer.