Consumer Alert: IRS phone scheme gets more sophisticated

A scheme that involves callers posing as fake Internal Revenue Service agents is evolving.

The Better Business Bureau said it’s receiving as many as five calls a day from people reporting that someone is now pretending to be a police officer, DMV employee, or other city or state official and asking for money.

“This is a very sophisticated scam,” said Gregory Dunn, CEO, Hawaii Better Business Bureau. “Essentially, after a consumer hangs up on the person that calls and says they’re from the IRS, anywhere from 10 minutes later to several hours or a day or so later, they’ll get another phone call from someone claiming to be from the police department or from the DMV saying you need to send money to the IRS or we’re going to arrest you.”

The new-and-improved scheme began taking shape a couple weeks ago.

“Consumers need to know that they will never receive a call like that from a reputable government agency,” Dunn said. “They will not get a call from the DMV. They will not get a call from the police telling them to pay the IRS or to send a prepaid money card or to wire money to anybody.”

But what’s confusing many is that the schemers are using technology that masks the caller’s real phone number and instead shows one that looks official.

If you fall for the scheme, you can expect to get a lot more calls.

“We’ve seen it with someone who falls prey to this the first time,” Dunn said. “They’ll get a second or a third or a fourth call and, once they understand that you’re vulnerable and that you have funds available to be sent, they’ll continue to mine that well.”

Dunn said the best way to protect yourself is simply by hanging up.

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