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Update: IRS scam 'getting taxed'

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A Valley woman was happy to see arrests made in the IRS Scam, especially after she was duped out of $1,800. (Source: 3TV) A Valley woman was happy to see arrests made in the IRS Scam, especially after she was duped out of $1,800. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Chances are pretty good you either received a phone call or voice mail from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service.

Those callers though are really scammers and they've tricked people into handing over millions of dollars.

"I'm just happy and glad that, they are caught," said Ramona Bellah.

She is relieved when she looks at recent headlines and watches videos of some of the arrests involving the now infamous IRS phone scam. And she should be relieved because the Avondale woman was duped her out of $1,800.

"I would slap their face," Bellah said.

Published reports indicate 70 people, mostly overseas, were recently arrested for posing as IRS agents.

They would call unsuspecting Americans like Ramona and convince them that if they did not immediately pay off an old fictitious IRS tax debt they would be arrested.

The scheme started three years ago and has netted scammers around $40 million.

A recording of one of those calls used to intimidate you goes something like this: “Hello. This call is an official notice from IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason for this call is IRS is filing a lawsuit against you.”

Many of those fake IRS calls came out of India and made their way to the U.S. including right here in Arizona nearly 9,000 miles away.

Scammers would threaten people with imminent arrest if they didn't send money right away using prepaid cards.

Unfortunately, Ramona says she fell for it and forwarded $1,800.

"I felt like I had a gun to my head," Ramona said.

3 On Your Side profiled Ramona two years ago when the scam was really heating up. But with the recent arrests, complaints about the IRS scam appear to be dropping.

[RELATED: 3OYS Update: IRS phone scam continues to 'tax' Valley residents]

Felicia Thompson is with the Phoenix Better Business Bureau and tracks the IRS scam.

"We've gone from seeing over 200 scam reports a week to 11 so that's about a 95 percent decrease," Thompson said.

For years, the IRS phone scam was the top consumer complaint to the Better Business Bureau but not anymore.

[RELATED: BBB warns of top scams]

With the recent arrests and with more people learning about the scam through outlets like 3 On Your Side, the scam is hopefully running out of steam.

"I think it's a combination of people really paying attention to the details because scam artists are very smart and also detailed but also I think the fact that that call center did get raided was a huge help in this instance," Thompson said.

Still, victims like Ramona say the scam will never completely go away.  

"They need to get them all, all of them," Ramona said.   

For additional information about the phone scam visit:

www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts

www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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