Police Record IRS Scam to Alert Citizens

Friday, May 12, 2017
Police Record IRS Scam to Alert Citizens

Hillsborough officers want citizens to know about fraudulent phone calls intended to steal their money.

So when the IRS supposedly called an officer about a lawsuit and a potential warrant for his arrest, Hillsborough officers played along.

“One of our officers received a call from the fake IRS saying there would be a warrant issued for his arrest if he didn’t pay money,” Lt. Andy Simmons wrote in a post Thursday on the Hillsborough Police Department’s Facebook page. “We called back in a controlled environment to show citizens how these scams work.”

A 16-minute video on the department’s Facebook page includes the automated phone call that Officer Jason Dimitri received, which states, “The reason we are trying to contact you is to inform you that there is a lawsuit filed against you by the Internal Revenue Service.” The automated message further instructs that a warrant for arrest will be issued and to call a given number as soon as possible.

When Dimitri and Simmons arrived back at the police station, Simmons called the number and recorded the conversation. He offers these tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Scammers will present themselves as officers, so ask for a phone number to call back to verify a person’s identity. Call the actual agency with a phone number you know to be correct.
  • Listen to the audio quality of the phone call. Low quality audio with people talking in the background can alert you that something is not right and that the business is not professional.
  • The IRS will not ask you to go to a third-party location to collect fees.
  • Do not give personal information over the phone. “That’s not how the IRS does business,” Simmons said.

“By nature, we’re a trusting people,” Simmons said, explaining why people fall for the fraudulent calls. He recorded the call and created the video to help make more people aware of the scams, particularly elderly citizens. His hope is that the information is shared with as many people as possible.

The phone call

In Simmons’ recorded phone call, a woman claiming to be an officer answered the phone. Voices from other people making calls could be heard in the background. The woman instructed Simmons, posing as Dimitri, to write down some important information, including her name and ID number and the case number. She asked him whether he filed his own taxes and instructed she would explain the situation and he was not to interrupt.

She then told him he owed $1,886 due to a miscalculation and said he had two options: to fight the case with a criminal attorney in a federal courthouse in D.C. or to resolve the matter out of the courthouse. When Simmons said he wanted to resolve the matter, she asked to verify that he wanted to resolve the matter out of the courthouse. She then transferred him to what was said to be the investigations department.

Another person claiming to be an officer answered the transferred call. He told Simmons he had to pay $1,000 up front and then could pay the rest of the owed amount in installments. The fraudulent officer said he was not authorized at this time to take any debit or credit card information over the phone, so Simmons was to obtain an electronic federal tax payment voucher at the nearest government-registered tool, have funds converted into an electronic voucher and provide the officer with the voucher numbers, user name and password.

Simmons asked where he should go to get a voucher and was told to go to Walmart and to stay on the phone with the fraudulent officer at all times, with the phone on speaker. “Once you reach the Walmart, then I will give you the name of the card, which card you have to purchase, and then we will resolve the case,” he said.

Simmons, pretending to be heading to Walmart, then put an end to the charade: “Let me ask you a question: Do you really have people drive to Walmart and you try and steal their money?”

“Yes,” the scammer replied.

“The people you tried to defraud today are from the Hillsborough Police Department, and you basically threatened to take cops to jail fraudulently because you don’t work for the IRS,” Simmons further said. “Why are you trying to run a scam and take innocent people’s money?”

“It’s my wish,” the scammer said. “I will do whatever I feel like. I will scam you as well. You’re an officer, right? So I will scam you. Not a problem … because U.S. persons are stupid. They fall for this sort of a scam.”

Upon questioning, the scammer said his company makes about $10,000 a day performing the fraudulent calls, with the callers earning about $800 to $1,000 a day. They also sometimes drain 401(k) and IRA accounts of the people they scam, he said. The scammer also noted that people who call the number given in the automated message should question whether they are being scammed when they hear callers with foreign accents. Simmons replied that a lot of people in the United States have a foreign accent, so Americans don’t automatically assume something is wrong when hearing such an accent.

At the video’s end, Simmons states, “That’s what an IRS phone scam looks like.”

He added, “They prey on our elderly. They prey on our people who don’t know any better, and that’s not OK.”

More information

For more information on scams using the Internal Revenue Service name, see the IRS website and check the sections on “Scams” and “Is the IRS Calling?”

See the video on the Police Department’s Facebook page and share it. The video also will be made available on the Town of Hillsborough’s YouTube channel.

For additional information, contact Simmons by email or by phone at 919-296-9522.