Young millennial girl texting on her mobile phone

DEGMAN: It's March, The Scammers Are Getting Aggressive

They're targeting cell phones and it's... just bad.

Alex Degman
March 14, 2018 - 7:36 pm

I normally don't write columns. I think this is my second one and I've been at KMOX for more than two years.

But after I got two cell phone calls this afternoon that I knew were scams, I couldn't stay quiet.

The recorded voicemail messages advised me to call back right away because a "legal lawsuit has been filed against [my] name." Well, as someone who's covered these scams no fewer than a dozen times I immediately knew this was one of them. And I'm tired of these people taking advantage of unsuspecting citizens just because they can, so I wanted to catch them in the act.

I tried to get through to these numbers a few times, they kept hanging up on me (I wasn't as sly as I should have been when placing the calls initially). 

I did eventually get through to a "Ray Miller" with the "IRS" (definitely not his name or agency). I have the call, and it was my intent to post it here and play it for you on the air just so you can hear exactly what these scammers sound like and what type of hoops they try to get you to jump through. But I can't. We're not allowed to broadcast that call, or the voicemail they left me -- FCC regulations are very strict on recorded phone conversations that are intended for broadcast. I did not inform "Ray" he was being recorded so, while not in violation of Missouri law (Missouri is a one party consent state), I would be in violation of federal broadcast law.

In this instance, the FCC does a very good job of protecting the scammers. But, I cannot break the law just because people in fake call centers using Magic Jacks are scamming us out of hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. I get that. Two wrongs don't make a right.
Ray Miller sounded like he was in an overseas call center. It was very loud and I could hear other people in the background, all with "Ray's" same accent. "Ray" told me I was in violation in several areas:
1) violation of federal IRS rules and regulations
2) deficiency in income tax
3) stealing taxes from the U.S. government
He threatened a five year prison sentence for "trying to run away with the money" and asked if I had an attorney before telling me I owed about $5,000 in back taxes. 

"Taxpayers across the nation face a deluge of these aggressive phone scams. Don't be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a recent news release. “We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you're not hearing from us.”

Related - WATCH: Texas Cops Give IRS Scammer Run For His Money

"There are many variations. The caller may threaten you with arrest or court action to trick you into making a payment,” Koskinen added. “Some schemes may say you're entitled to a huge refund. These all add up to trouble."
I informed "Ray Miller" of this. He was noticeably a little more agitated when he said IRS agents have shown up at my home several times in the past few weeks to inform me of my dereliction of taxpaying duty, but each time I was not there. 

"What address did you go to," I inquired. "Ray" listed my Springfield, Illinois address -- a house that I still own but have not lived in since November 2015.

At that point, after having him on the phone for 10 minutes, I told him who I was, that this is a scam and I'm definitely not giving him any money.

He then got angry with me and yelled at me for wasting his time.

Ironically I wasn't the only one attacked today. While I was on the phone with "Ray," KMOX's Carol Daniel -- with whom I host Total Information PM Monday through Friday -- got a call herself. She's never received an IRS scam call, but a woman claiming to be from "Americans for the Cure of Breast Cancer" (which doesn't exist) pressed very hard for a donation while refusing to send Carol any background.

Rebecca Wu with the FBI followed up and suggested the both of us, and any of you, report scams to the Federal Trade Commission.

Here's the bottom line: it's tax time, scammers are out in full force and they're out with a force that I've not seen in recent years. The IRS will never, ever call you first. They certainly won't threaten to throw you in jail. Please protect yourself and don't fall victim to these people.