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IRS scam targets Vermont taxpayers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

IRS scam targets Vermont taxpayers

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"This is the worst experience I've ever had in my life," said Jane, who asked that we protect her identity.

Jane's nightmare started with a voice mail. The message said, "This call is officially a final notice from IRS... The reason for this call is to inform you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you."

They were words that made her shiver. Jane says she's a law-abiding citizen who's always used a tax preparer and paid on time. She returned the call to resolve the problem. And that's when the real trouble began.

"Scary. Really scary," Jane said.

She says the man on the other end of the line said he was with the IRS. He had a heavy accent and kept her on the phone for nearly 45 minutes, insisting she made mistakes on her 2011 to 2014 tax returns totaling more than $3,600. If she didn't pay immediately, she would be arrested.

"I was right in the moment going through this," Jane said. "He was yelling at me. I'm trying to understand what he's saying. I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm questioning things and each time he's just threatening me."

He had reasonable answers for every concern Jane raised. But the more she challenged him, the nastier he got.

Reporter Jennifer Costa: Why not just hang up?

Jane: I was afraid I was going to be arrested... I wasn't thinking. I was just emotional.

Jane fell for the lies and sent $510 through MoneyGram to a destination in Boston.

"It didn't dawn on me until I got back home that it might possibly be a scam," she said. "When I finally realized what was happening, I felt like such a fool."

"People are still paying," said Janet Murnane, the director of the Vermont attorney general's consumer assistance program.

Murnane says nearly 2,000 Vermonters have already filed complaints this year about the IRS scam. At least four have been swindled, paying out up to $17,000.

"If you talk with them, if you engage, if you call the call back number, they're just going to put you on the live list and continue to call you," Murnane said.

She warns these overseas crooks are extremely convincing, offer ID numbers and typically have personal information about you. They use scare tactics, spoof police department phone numbers and prey on people's fears of faulty tax filings.

If you really do owe the feds money, experts say the IRS will contact you by mail and won't require a specific payment method.

If you get a call claiming you owe back taxes, hang up, call the IRS and report the incident to the AG's office.

Jennifer Costa: Do these people have any chance of getting their money back?

Janet Murnane: The money's gone.

For Jane, the monetary loss stings, but the larger price is her pride.

"I was really in a vulnerable state and not on my game," she said. "And that's exactly what they do. He was a con artist. He was brilliant."

Officials say these scammers rarely get caught. Because they're overseas, Vermont does not have jurisdiction. The U.S. government is working on call-blocking technology to prevent the calls from even connecting with consumers.

If you think you've been scammed, here are some important phone numbers and email addresses to help you out.

IRS - 1-800-829-1040

Vermont Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program:

1-800-649-2424

https://www.uvm.edu/consumer/

To file a complaint:

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml

Federal Trade Commission

ftc.gov/complaint

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