AVONDALE, Ariz. -- It is a phone call Avondale resident Ramona Bellah wishes she never answered.
“He said I owed $3,800 and some dollars," Bellah said, recalling a conversation with a man claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service. "He said that they did an audit for the past three years and they showed that I owed money, that I was stealing from the government."
Bellah was told the police were on the way and that she'd be facing jail time if she didn't pay up.
"He says, 'You need to get in your car now, go to your bank and withdraw the money, and then follow directions. Do not hang up the phone,' " Bellah told 3TV.
Fearing she'd go to jail, she stayed on the line with the caller as she drove to her bank to withdraw $1,800.
"I felt like I had a gun to my head,” she said.
Bellah was then directed to a nearby supermarket to purchase Reloadit cards. The caller told her to put $850 on one card and $950 on the other, then leave the store and provide him with the numbers on the back of the cards.
Using those numbers, the fake IRS agent was able to retrieve the $1,800, but he wasn't done. He sent Bellah back to the bank to get more money. But this time, she felt something wasn't right.
With the caller still on the phone, Bellah handed the teller a note that said, “I have the IRS on the phone wanting me to pay an amount $3,980, but I don't have that kind of money."
The teller told Bellah not to do it because the IRS doesn't call people asking for money. So Bellah hung up and later filed a police report.
It turns out she fell victim to a scam that federal officials say has now cheated thousands of people out of more than $1 million, the largest scam the IRS has seen. The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have issued press releases warning taxpayers about the scam.
“I want everybody to know that don't go through this," Bellah said. "This is not something the IRS is going to do.”