Rutledge woman loses thousands in IRS phone scam

Investigations

It’s the middle of tax season and scammers are on the lookout for victims. A young woman said she lost thousands of dollars to someone claiming he was from the IRS and she owed money.

She was scared after being threatened to be thrown in jail. The woman believed the people on the phone were actually from the IRS. She had not heard of this scam before. She thought the caller was legitimate after being given a full name and badge number.

Michayla, who did not want her last name published, says her iPhone is her lifeline. At 21, she’s a hard worker who holds down two jobs. Earlier this month, she received an unsolicited call and listened to an automated recording that said misconduct was found on her tax return.

“The message was I had four serious allegations against me by the IRS,” said Michayla. “I needed to call another phone number within 24 hours to get the problem resolved or I would be taken into custody by the local police.”

Michayla filed her income taxes for the first time last year and wondered if maybe she had made a mistake. She followed instructions and called the number back.

“What made me feel like it was legitimate was that she gave me her name. She said her name was officer Sarah Baker. And gave me an actual ID number,” she said.

She was then directed to a second person who she said was not polite.

“He told me that I had allegations against me, asked me my address and when I gave him my ZIP code, he said this is what you need to do,” said Michayla.

By providing an address and zip code, scammers can go to Google Maps, find your home and the nearest store that sells money cards.

“He told me that I need to go in and purchase four Google Play cards each with $500 on them for a total of $2,000,” said Michayla.

Michayla said she was on the phone with the guy for four hours and was told not to tell anyone what was going on. She showed WATE 6 On Your Side receipts where she bought Google Play cards from stores in Dandridge, Knoxville and Sevierville.

“My logic and reasoning just shut off, I went into fight or flight mode. I felt I had to do this. These people made me feel like my life would be over if I didn’t do this,” Micayla said. “I was absolutely terrified.”

Then the man asked for even more money.

“I needed $1,500 more dollars. I told them I didn’t have that. They told me to call a trusted family member, tell them it’s important, that their money will be refunded to them,” she said.

She sent that $1,500 through a loan she got from a family member. Michayla said the caller wasn’t through yet. With the next demand, she realized she had been scammed.

“He was demanding that I ask another family member for $2,000 more dollars. At this point, I basically was like, ‘Okay, arrest me,'” she said.

Here are the red flags. Through unsolicited calls, thieves claim to be IRS officials and demand that you pay a bogus tax bill. The caller uses IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They con victims into sending cash, usually through prepaid cards or wire transfer. They scare their victims and threaten arrest if they don’t get the money.

“I just want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Never give someone money if you don’t see them face to face,” Michayla said.

Michayla lost a total of $3,700. She spent $200 buying those Google Play cards. 

Remember, the IRS will not call you to demand payment. They’ll send you a bill in the mail. The IRS also allows you to appeal the amount you owe.

The IRS reports thousands of people have been caught up in this scam. Michayla is not the first victim.

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