3OYS Update: IRS agents can't seem to stop phone scammers

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - "These calls are happening daily." Brian Watson is a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service, and the calls he's talking about have been a real nuisance. "Your caller ID may even say IRS or U.S. government, so it's very intimidating."

3 On Your Side has warned you about this scam numerous times. It usually starts with a voicemail from someone claiming to be with the IRS. Here's an example: "But before IRS takes any legal action against your name, Social Security number, call us back as soon as possible."

And here's another message: "One of the sheriff county officers will arrest you at the time you can verify that what the mistake done by you."

The intimidating messages say you owe hundreds, even thousands of dollars in back taxes and that you need to call back in order to pay up.

"They threaten arrest. They threaten to have your driver's license taken away from you," Watson said. "At one point, we were getting calls that they were telling people they were going to be deported if they didn't pay the money right away."

Ed Antolik told 3 On Your Side in a previous report he got one of those calls but didn't fall for it.

"In the beginning, I thought it was very legit. I was scared. I started to tear up. I even was shaking a little bit," Antolik said.

With so many people falling for the scam, 3 On Your Side wanted to know how the crooks are getting your phone number and other personal information. According to Watson, "That's the unanswered question. It's identity theft, and there's so many different ways it happens.”

Watson says one possibility goes back to all those data breaches that affected numerous major retailers and restaurants. He says your phone number could have been stolen in that breach and sold on the black market. There are other ways your information could be getting out there.

"You click on a link, and they basically trick you into providing your Social Security number and other important information. Or you may just be using Internet and have a completely unsafe computer because you have no anti-virus protection or firewalls on your computer," Watson said.

The bottom line is this: don't be a victim.

"If you get a letter from the IRS, be very responsive. If you get a threatening phone call from someone claiming to be the IRS, hang up the phone call. We don't do business that way," Watson said. 

For more information about the IRS phone scam, visit the following links:

www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Don't-be-Fooled-Phone-Scams-Continue-to-Be-Serious-Threat-Nationwide

www.treasury.gov/tigta/press/press_tigta-2015-01_home.htm

www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml

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