Anatomy of a scam | VailDaily.com

Anatomy of a scam

EAGLE — Katherine was headed home, eastbound on Interstate 70 from Rifle, when her cell phone rang. A soft, official-sounding voice said there had been an automobile crash and one of her family members was involved.

She was so stunned she pulled off the highway, her mind racing to her daughter and to her teenaged son and to her husband, who's fond of his motorcycle.

She began to get physically ill and asked who was involved, but instead the caller peppered her with questions, asking for personal information, claiming it was needed to identify the accident victim.

Stunned and off balance, she glanced down at the caller ID, 720-365-3887. Not a number she recognized, and not the Colorado State Patrol. She asked who was calling, but the caller would not identify himself.

“Don’t be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money.” John KoshinenIRS Commissioner

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Scam Alert

It's a scam, more cruel than most and one of the latest going around, said Sergeant Rob Madden, a public information officer with the Colorado State Patrol.

"As you can see, this is a phishing call where the caller is attempting to gather information from the call recipient," Madden said. "If you receive a call and are unsure of the validity, do not give the caller any information."

If the caller is valid, they'll lead the call with their identity and who they're with. "They will not avoid telling you their agency and name," Madden said. "You can also ask for the caller's phone number that you can call back to verify their agency."

More creative and bold

Scammers are growing more creative and more bold.

A text message scam threatened a Gypsum man with assassination if he didn't pay $15,000.

The man, who has not been named, showed Eagle County Sheriff's deputies a series of text messages claiming that the sender of those messages had been hired to kill him.

Local sheriff's deputies made a series of controlled calls, and were told if the man did not pay $15,000, he would be assassinated. The deputies tracked the text messages to a GoogleVoice account, and an unidentified person instructed detectives to send money through Western Union to a Paula Mandez in Columbus, Ohio.

According to the Sheriff's office, scams like these are more common that one might think.

"Other Colorado law enforcement agencies have also received several reports of these type of phone scams with threatening calls and texts," a release about the incident read.

A Vail Valley man's ski boots and poles fell off his bike, so he posted the information on a local online bulletin board.

Not long afterward, a guy claiming to be a driver for J.B. Hunt Trucking, from Illinois, called to say he had the stuff. The trucker said he called the cops, and the cops gave him the local man's information.

The scammer posing as a trucker said he wanted money for shipping, and that it should be sent to Alton, Illinois.

Our Vail Valley man politely declined. His gear turned up a few days later in the lost and found of a local police department.

Dirty Dozen scams

Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents headline the agency's annual dirty doen list.

Scammers threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation, lawsuits and other things.

It's not real, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

"If you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you're not hearing from us," Koskinen said in a statement. "Don't be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money."

The criminals are becoming creative. Besides threats, scammers may say you're entitled to a huge refund.

Scammers do it because sometimes it works. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says almost 900,000 people have contacted them, and more than 5,000 victims have collectively paid scammers more than $26.5 million.

Protect Yourself

Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave urgent callback requests through phone robo-calls, or via a phishing email.

Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver's license of their victim if they don't get the money.

Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim's name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.

The IRS will never:

• Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.

• Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

• Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

• Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Scam safety

What to do, and not to

• Do not give the caller any personal information.

• Ask for the caller’s agency.

• Ask for the caller’s name and employee number.

• Ask for the caller’s agency phone number.

• Tell the caller that you are going to call back on that number to verify their identity.

• Do not use the number provided to call them back.

• Use the internet or phone book to find an agency phone number and call that.

• Call another local agency and ask for them to transfer you to the other agency.

Source: Colorado State Patrol