TAMPA (FOX 13) - It's tax time and that means scammers are out in force pretending to be the IRS.These scams have been around for years, but a new twist is making them harder to detect.
A Bay Area woman recently received a voicemail from a caller identifying himself as an agent with the "Federal Investigation Department." The man claimed to be calling about a case of tax evasion and instructed the victim to call back right away to avoid legal action.
When the victim returned the call, she was prompted to wire money. According to the victim's attorney, Michael Broadus, the victim asked the "agent" to send her supporting documentation. When the "agent" refused, she suspected she was on the phone with a scammer and hung up.
However, something odd happened.
"Within five minutes or so, she gets another call and it shows up on her caller ID as the Tampa Police Department mainline," said Broadus.
Broadus says his client wasn't fooled by the first call, but this one, appearing to be coming from TPD, made her second guess herself.
"Basically they said, 'I've been instructed to come out and arrest you on this issue because you're not being cooperative.' Then [the caller] indicated that she could avoid arrest by cooperating and sending over the money."
The victim googled the number on her caller ID. It matched the mainline number listed for TPD. Not knowing if the police really were on their way to her house, she immediately contacted Broadus, who called TPD himself.
"I got about two seconds into my story and the mainline operator was like, 'no that's definitely a scam.'"
TPD say they've had reports of similar impersonation scams before. Scammers can use various services to mask their numbers on caller ID's or impersonate just about anyone, even law enforcement.
TPD says they would never call a suspect to threaten arrest or ask someone to wire money. The IRS, meanwhile, says it will never call you to demand payment, ask for credit or debit card information or threaten to involve local police or law enforcement groups.
For more information about IRS scams or to report one, check out these links:
Information about what to do if you receive an IRS-related communication can be found here: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
Report a potential IRS scam here: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml (report an IRS scam)
Get more information on the Federal Trade Commission's IRS scam blog post: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/irs-calling
A consumer guide on spoofing and caller ID: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/spoofing-and-caller-id