Pay Up or Prison? IRS Scam Targets Taxpayers

Scammers{}are targeting your wallet and bank account- and this time around, they're pretending to be the tax man.

Those who get a call, describe it like an ambush.

"'This is what you owe, this is what you owe, you need to pay, figure it out,'" says Lydia Rubio, describing a call she received Monday.

She had missed the call in her Madera home, and found a message on her voice mail telling her "This is Crystal from Internal Revenue Service there is a CP-11 notice filed against your name so before we impose a federal lien call back immediately."

Rubio called the number.

A man told her she owes back taxes for 2009, 2010, and last year -- to a tune of $4,200.

"I'm thinking I got a refund back, and he's like, well it's wrong," says Rubio. "He said, 'you have until five to pay me or we'll see you in court tomorrow.'

"He was hounding me. I'm in big trouble. I'm gonna go to jail. Everything is going to be put on a lien. My back account is going to be frozen."

Rubio panicked, tracked down copies of her tax returns, emptied her bank account, and then called her tax preparer.

"It's so far back that it makes you wonder, did I do them right, did we miss something?" she says.

Once at her tax preparer's office, the two called the number again.

A man immediately answered, and identified himself from the I.R.S.

"If it was true, it would have been an automated system," she realized.

"This is a fraud that's going on," says Corporal Shawn Bushey, with Madera Police.

He says his department has been receiving a lot of calls about this scamenough, that it posted an alert on its Facebook page Monday.

But Bushey says often times, the officers' hands are tied in tracing the calls.

"They use the magic jack for fictitious numbers. There's nothing we can do about that," he says. "It's real hard for us to do a follow-up investigation."

Nationwide, the Treasury Inspector General of Taxpayer Administration - or TIGTA- has received more than 60,000 complaints about this scam.

Those victims who have actually come forward have shelled out more than $1 million in California alone.

An I.R.S. alert makes it clear that the agency contacts people about unpaid taxes by mail-- and not over the phone.

"If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the I.R.S. and uses threatening language if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the I.R.S. calling," says J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for TIGTA.

When it comes to paying back that money, it won't ask for a prepaid credit card--let alone asking that the money be wired."

We even tried to call the number.

A recording came on moments later, saying "Sorry, but the user's mailbox can't accept more messages."

"I thought it was real because he knew my first name, my last night, my address, my phone number. He knew. And it just makes you wonder," says Rubio.

If you do receive a questionable calland it's possible you owe money-- hang up and call the I.R.S. at 1-800-829-1040.

If you don't owe, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.