NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Authorities say a scam that tricks people into turning over huge amounts of cash to con artists is growing—and so far, the crooks are getting away with it.
Liliana Molina says she was terrified after getting a call from a man who said he was from the IRS and threatened to have her arrested.
“I was just crying a lot,” she said. “Oh my God, I was shaking — my hands, my phone. At that moment, I say, ‘Why? Why is this happening to me?’”
The man on the line said she owed big money in back taxes and had to pay now or go to jail.
“I just felt dumbfounded that this happened to me,” added Sheila Soh.
Soh had a similar call from someone claiming to be from the IRS.
“I didn’t think the IRS would tell me a lie,” she said.
The caller said she owed $30,000 and if she didn’t pay right away, she too would be arrested. She was frightened enough to do what he said.
“I was just scared and mortified and I didn’t know what to do but to follow his instructions,” Soh said.
And thousands more are doing the same. Terrorized by the callers, they are turning over credit card information, wiring money and paying in other ways that allow the callers not to be traced, CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported.
The IRS says what sets this scam apart from others is the level of intimidation.
“What’s really different about this one is the aggressive nature of the phone calls,” Terry Lemons with the IRS said. “People calling and threatening to bring out local police, threatening deportation — these are not things that the IRS does.”
In addition to threats and intimidation, scammers use the most sophisticated technology so that phone calls actually seem to be made from the same area code as IRS headquarters in Washington D.C.
“They have a software program that changes the internal mechanism of what shows up on a caller ID so it makes it look very official,” security expert Joe Giacalone said.
And who gets scammed is no accident. The crooks even tailor order lists of potential victims from hackers.
“You can exactly ask for what you want. Say I’m looking for individuals 70 and above that live in a particular area, and they can do that,” Giacalone said.
Soh will never get her thousands, but Molina’s instincts kicked in and she hung up the phone before she got fleeced.
“I’m very lucky, very lucky and happy,” she said.
The IRS says their first contact with any taxpayer is always through the mail, never over the phone. They also say if you get one of these calls, hang up and never give any information.
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