IRS warns about phone scam

Criminals pose as IRS demanding money

IRS warns about phone scam

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Tax season is upon us, and scammers are once again trying to take advantage of it.

The IRS said phone scams, where criminals pose as the IRS and try to get callers to send them money, remain a major threat.

In fact, the government said they are aware of at least 10,000 victims who have collectively paid $54 million since 2013, but there are easy ways to protect someone against being the victim.

La Crosse resident Ken Riley received an unusual phone call Monday morning from a robo-call claiming to be the IRS.

"The matter at hand is extremely time-sensitive and urgent," the call said. "We found that there was fraud and misconduct on your taxes which you are hiding from the federal government."

While Riley was skeptical, he said it still was an unnerving experience.

"At first it’s sort of like when you're driving down the road -- completely legal and you see sirens go off and you still get nervous,” Riley said.

Because he had just met his tax preparer, he quickly suspected the call was fake, but he's worried others might not be so suspecting.

"If that would have been my mother, for example, and she didn't have anybody to bounce it off, she definitely would have bought into that and called, just because she would want to be up front and connected to it and honest and forthright,” Riley said.

Officials with the IRS said Riley's story is fairly common.

"Typically what they'll do is they'll call unsuspecting victims -- tell them they owe us tens of thousands of dollars that they need to pay right away,” said Bret Kressin, supervisory special agent for the IRS.

Scammers we'll want callers to provide money in the payment of gift cards or wire payments.

"If you owe us money, we're never going to make that initial contact with you over the phone like that, we're typically going to send you something in the mail,” Kressin said.

They said if you receive one of these calls, it's best just to ignore.

"Hang up on them -- don't engage them in a conversation,” Kressin said.

Riley ignored the voicemail, but the scam still sticks in his head.

"I still think, maybe I should have called, because maybe there is something going on with our taxes,” Riley said. “I'm not going to, but it's a very unsettling experience.

The IRS said anyone who gets one of these calls can file a formal complaint. Head to to find out more information.

One common scam they are seeing more often are email "phishing' scams, where criminals pose as someone else the individual or business may recognize and attempt to steal personal information.

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