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IRS telephone scam targets locals

By ABC-7 Reporter Pilar Arias
Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:45:24 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 08:04:46 PM CST

Reporter: Pilar Arias

EL PASO, Texas -

An El Paso woman is warning others not to fall victim to an Internal Revenue Service telephone scam that cost her more than $5,000.

Therese Balesh received a phone call last Saturday. The person on the other line informed her that the IRS had a case against her and her husband. She was told to call a number with a 415 area code to give a reference number for her case. Balesh couldn't believe what she heard when she made the call.

"If you don't pay right now we will arrest you and your husband and we will freeze all your property, bank," Balesh said the man threatened. It was at that point she became scared and did whatever the man on the phone wanted. The scammer instructed her to drive to a bank with him on speaker phone, withdrawal her debt of $5,173 to the IRS and then purchase pre-paid Green Dot MoneyPak cards.

After going to a gas station that didn't have the pre-paid cards, Balesh ended up buying 10 cards in $500 increments at a Walgreens. She then went outside the store and read the card numbers off to the man. The scam artist then instructed her that he'd forgive $50 of the debt and ordered she buy another $123 card. She did, and read him the number again.

El Paso Police Department Det. Mike Baranyay said Balesh's case is not the first he's heard of. Two other victims have reported similar cases and it's believed there may be other victims who haven't come forward. Baranyay says it's during the holidays that scam artists like to attack because people feel more giving.

"That's a lot of money for any person and obviously it's going to impact this person's life negatively," Baranyay said. He wants to remind people that EPPD also has a scam resource page on the department website.

The IRS has a warning about the scam on their website.

According to the IRS website anyone who gets a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS should do the following:

    If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue - if there really is such an issue.
    If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
    If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov.  Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

It's important to remember the IRS has a lengthy audit and appeal process. No one goes to jail over a single phone call.

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