PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Elaine Palahunik has never cheated on her taxes, so she was floored to get a call on her answering machine recently telling her to call back or else.
The robotic voice says: “This is the final notification call from IRS. And if we don’t hear from you immediately, you will be taken before a court of law and an arrest warrant will be issued at your name immediately.”
She’s one of hundreds in our area and tens of thousands nationwide who’ve been targeted in what the IRS calls – the biggest impersonation scam in their history.
“You have that initial shock that goes through you. You think, did I file my taxes right? Did I do this and did I do that?” said Palahunik.
As of this week, a total of 128 Pennsylvania residents have suffered reported losses of $561,992 to the phone fraud impersonation.
Nationwide, the scam has claimed 3,112 victims who have reported losses at $15.6 million.
Loses the Better Business Bureau says could have been avoided if the public knew just one basic fact — the Internal Revenue Service only contacts the public through the U.S. mail.
“The IRS will not contact you on the phone,” said Caitlin Discoll, of the Better Business Bureau.
But the calls are widespread. Last week, KDKA’s Andy Sheehan found this message on his answering machine.
The message: “This call is officially a final notice from IRS – Internal Revenue Services. The reason for this call is to inform you that IRS is lawsuit against you.”
Sheehan called the number and the man who answered said he was from the IRS.
Sheehan: “You said I owed money on my taxes, that I was being sued.”
He asked about making payments, but the man was evasive.
Sheehan: “Do you realize that the IRS — the real IRS — will not call anyone at their home. Are you running a scam, sir?”
And with that he hung up.
Palahunik didn’t fall for the scam, but wants others to be aware.
“Shame on them for trying to scam especially the elderly,” said Palahunik.
This advice is – be smart, don’t fall for it, and hang up and call the real IRS.