BBB warns of phone scam targeting Chicago area

The Better Business Bureau says callers claiming to be from the IRS are targeting our area and catching consumers off guard.

It was a call Lucy Rowell wasn't expecting to get.

“I heard this voice saying they were from the IRS,” Rowell said.

The retired teacher says she immediately became suspicious when the caller claimed she was in trouble and when they called back again, she kept this voicemail: "The reason for this call is to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuit against you."

“I was sitting at home on a Saturday and my home phone rang,” said Dominick Maino.

Maino got a similar call from someone claiming to be from the IRA. Then, he got another.

“A few moments later, a third call, now they were going to haul me away to jail,” Maino said.

Rowell and Maino are just of two of dozens of consumers who have reported the calls to the Better Business Bureau.

“We're seeing a great influx of new calls on the IRS,” said Steve Bernas, president of the BBB.

Bernas says the BBB monitors calls like these on its "scam tracker" website. He says the recent spike has him concerned.

“I've been doing this for 30 years, it tells me something that this scam is working. They would stop doing it if consumers stopped giving them their money,” Bernas said.

Bernas says the scammers prey on people's emotions by threatening lawsuits or arrest.

“They scare the heck out of you,” he said.

Bernas says a one sure sign it's a scam is if the caller demands payment immediately.

So if you get a call, immediately hang up. Then, tell the IRS and the BBB about the call - like Rowell and Maino did - to warn others.

By the way - the IRS started a new debt collection program this year - so you could get a legit call on behalf of the IRS if you do owe money.       

The legit callers will never demand payment immediately and if you're suspicious, you can always hang up and call the IRS directly.

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