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IRS phone scam hits the Joplin area - KOAM TV 7

IRS phone scam hits the Joplin area

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A phone scam regarding the Internal Revenue Service, which the Better Business Bureau is calling an epidemic in Southwest Missouri, has hit many residents in the Joplin area.

Experts warn it could be detrimental to taxpayers, should they fall victim to the scam.

Tim Oliver is one of many residents in the Joplin area who has received a call from an unknown number claiming to be the IRS.

"For the first couple seconds, there was definitely a moment of panic," Oliver said.

When the caller began asking for personal information and payments, Oliver knew something was not right.

Kathy Blood, owner of Blood Tax Service in Joplin, says she and many of her clients have also received the calls, which give a similar scenario each time.

"He said the sheriff would be here within 24 hours to pick me up and gave me another number to call and make my payment arrangements," Blood said.

Officials at the Joplin Police Department say their front desk has been receiving on average 10 calls a day, from residents who say they too are receiving the scam calls.

"We also have noticed that it tends to be the elderly people that are calling us," said Captain Bob Higginbotham, Joplin Police Department. "We're glad they are calling us. They're doing the right thing."

Elizabeth Crane, owner of Liz's Tax Service in Webb City, says some victims do not find out about the scam until it is too late.

"You don't even realize that you've been scammed until you go to file your taxes and somebody has already done it for you and entered in fraudulent information," Crane said.  "It's really unfortunate."

IRS officials say should they need to contact you, it will be in writing.

"We are going to send you a letter through the mail," said Michael Devine, IRS spokesman. "We will not call you. We will not email you about your taxes."

Devine says it is important to never give out personal information to these scam callers, who are often aggressive and threatening.

"It scares you," Blood said. "We just want everyone to know it is a scam."

Blood hopes the calls will one day come to an end.

Until then, she has developed her own tactic on how to respond.

"I blew a whistle into the phone and, needless to say, he hung up automatically," Blood said.

The Missouri Attorney General's Office reports the IRS scam calls most often come from the 202 area code.

Anyone being solicited by this type of caller is encouraged to contact the Missouri Attorney General's Office Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-393-8222, or the IRS line directly at 800-829-1040.
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