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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you get a call from the IRS the Treasury Department wants you to do one thing – hang up.
On Wednesday, the first day of the tax filing season, the Treasury Department launched a new ad campaign warning taxpayers about phone scammers who claim to be IRS agents.
“They’re just ruthless criminals, and they really don’t care about people, they don’t care about anything other than trying to intimidate you into paying them money,” said the Treasury Department’s Deputy Inspector General of Investigations Tim Camus.
Pastor Al Cadenhead said when he got a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS last year, he was so scared he couldn’t think straight. It started when he got a call that threatened legal action if he didn’t comply.
“She informed me that they were filing a warrant for my arrest,” said Cadenhead.
Over the next seven hours, Cadenhead said he made multiple withdrawals from his bank and sent the money to the people claiming to be from the IRS in the form of pre-paid debit cards. He was taken for $16,000.
Cadenhead is far from alone.
Through March of last year, about 366,000 people received calls by scammers who said they were from the IRS. So far more than 900,000 people have received calls and the amount of money stolen has grown from $15-million to more than $26-million.
So how do you know if the call is legit?
“The tip off is, if you don’t pay immediately, you’re going to go to jail, that is the tip off. The IRS would never make a telephone call like that,” said Camus.
And then there’s this – the IRS does not call individuals at their houses. They do not threaten you, they do not tell you have you to pay right now or that you have to pay with a credit card or a money order.
If they need to contact you, they will do so via U.S. mail
The scam started in India but authorities say it’s so profitable it has spread to copycats all over the world.
The Better Business Bureau said this was their number one scam for 2015.