DAKOTA COUNTY, Minn. – Authorities are warning about a phone scam from people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service that have allegedly bilked people out of thousands of dollars.
The apparent scammers hoped one of their victims would have been Tim Leslie, of Dakota County, last week.
Leslie received a phone message from a man who said Leslie improperly filed his taxes and if he didn't give them money, the IRS would bring criminal charges against him.
"This is Special Agent Sean White with badge No. 7656," said the man in a foreign accent. "One copy of this case will be sent to your local sheriff department and one copy will be sent to your employer where you work right now to inform them of your fraudulent activity."
Here's the thing, Leslie works for the Dakota County Sheriff's Office. In fact, he's the chief deputy and is running for sheriff.
"He was very belligerent," he said of the man. "And finally I said, 'I'm going to look into this further and I'll be the one calling back you.' And he didn't like that so he hung up on me."
Leslie then called a friend at the IRS who connected him with an investigator with the agency.
"He indicated they've had 60,000 of these across the United States and some folks have lost over $10,000 to these people," he said.
A quick Google search confirms just a day ago news of a woman in Illinois who apparently got scammed out of $11,000 from someone claiming to be from the IRS. The scammers typically demand pre-paid debit cards, known as Green Dot cards.
"No one in the government is going to ask you to go and get a Green Dot card," said Leslie.
KARE 11 tried to contact "Special Agent White" Friday afternoon but got a voice message from a guy calling himself "Officer Jason Clark" who sounded a lot like White.
He has yet to return our message.
"No one would ever do that in law enforcement," said Leslie of the scammer.
That's why he is telling people to trust their instincts. If it sounds weird, it probably is.
"Trust your gut, absolutely," he said.
Below is a portion of a statement from the IRS providing tips on how to spot a scam and what to do if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the agency.
-Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
-Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number.
-Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
-Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
-Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
-After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here's what you should do:
-If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
-If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
-If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.