Posted at: 04/15/2014 10:49 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4
A would-be IRS worker claimed he answers to a higher power when he tries to collect from unsuspecting taxpayers over the phone.
The investigative team at KOB Eyewitness News 4 confronted the man after a viewer became concerned about a series of phone calls and voicemail messages she received from a number she didn’t recognize. She called back.
“He gave me his name. He said, ‘I'm an IRS investigator, and we're doing audits on people, and you have taxes owed from 5 years ago,’” Evelyn Chavez said.
Chavez, who works at a senior center in Albuquerque’s South Valley, said she knew immediately it was a scam. She worries that seniors will become victims of it.
“Some of our seniors are hard of hearing, and if they don't hear the whole story, they're going to think, oh, they've done something wrong and they're going to pay them,” Chavez said. “Some of these seniors are on a very low budget, low income.”
Chavez said the calls came from 415-251-7090. The number is tied to the San Francisco Bay Area, but online searches reveal that scammers have used it before to try to steal money from people.
KOB investigative reporter Ryan Luby contacted the number. A man, who spoke in broken English, answered after one ring.
Scammer: “Investigation division of Internal Revenue Service, Officer James Anderson, how can I help you?”
Ryan Luby: “Hi, I'm calling about a call that was made from this number?”
Luby placed the call from a KOB newsroom phone and did not identify himself at first. Regardless, “James” claimed Luby owed back taxes.
Scammer: “Ok, well the reason you received this phone call is in regards to your back taxes. Do you know about them?”
Luby: “Back taxes?”
Luby: “From when?”
Scammer: “When my investigation team examined your last seven years of your records, and we found out there was a deficiency in your income tax. At this point of time, the issue is very sensitive because there is a case which is going to get registered in regards to this issue. And a warrant for your arrest will get issued against your name. Police officers of your city will be notified about this, and the amount which you owe to Internal Revenue Service needs to be paid in full. If you're not able to pass this amount, we need put you in jail for next seven years.”
It’s unclear if “James” is the same person Chavez encountered. Multiple voices were audible in the background.
Luby identified himself as a reporter and reminded “James” that the IRS and Better Business Bureau, or BBB, have recently warned taxpayers of telephone scams. But “James” tried to suggest that KOB and Chavez were misguided.
Scammer: “But yeah, who's the scammer, do you know?”
Luby: “Well, the scammer, she believes, is you all.”
Scammer: “well, the scammer as in -- government? You need to find out. There is a culprit in U-S, all right?”
Luby: “So, you're saying you're not a scammer?”
Scammer: “No, I am not a scammer. I don't know -- this is the actual thing.”
“James” was not willing to let KOB speak with his supervisor.
Scammer: “No, no. Um, it's -- I, me, and myself.”
Luby: “So, you…”
Scammer: “I am the supervisor of-- yeah. My supervisor is God. See upwards.”
Scammer: “What is definition of God? You know, He is the generator, He is the operator, and He's a destroyer. So God can generate things, God can operate things, and God can destroy things.”
The IRS reissued a warning about phone scams on Monday – the day before the tax deadline. The agency described some of the scams as “sophisticated and aggressive.” It also explained that the scams will likely continue, if not increase, after the filing season.
As for “James,” it’s unclear where he resides. It’s also likely that callers like him will contact taxpayers using different phone numbers each time.