Dear ABC News Fixer: I have been receiving threatening phone calls from people who are pretending to be law enforcement officials. They threaten to arrest and harm me and my family.
I saw online that other people have received similar calls, and I thought there should be some sort of alert for consumers.
- Maria, Maryland
Dear Maria: As scams go, this is definitely a creepy one. You told us these calls came from a (713) number, which is a Houston area code, though with the advent of telephone "spoofing" technology your scammer may have been anywhere in the world.
Spoofers typically use VoIP or PRI technology or special software to make it appear on caller ID that they're calling from a different number. Thus, someone in West Africa or Eastern Europe can seem to be calling from inside the United States.
Your caller started by leaving a voicemail saying he was a law enforcement officer with a government agency. He claimed he had a warrant for your arrest for nonpayment of taxes, and said you needed to call back to arrange your surrender and payment.
Another message claimed that because you're not a U.S. citizen – even though you are! – you needed to file a special form for payment of taxes.
When you called the number back and told them this didn't make any sense, the person on the line made an obscene comment and made threats to harm your family if you didn't pay up. That's when you filed a police report.
When the ABC News Fixer called the number last week, it was already disconnected. But online, there was a trail of similar stories involving this phone number. In some cases, the caller claimed to be some sort of federal investigator; in others, they said they were working for the IRS or the FBI. Victims were told they owed taxes and might lose their immigration status.
You told the ABC News Fixer you wanted to get the word out, especially to immigrants and seniors who might fall for a trick like this.
So, folks -- if you get a call like this, remember:
If it's related to immigration status and they're demanding money, it's definitely a scam. The real U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will never call you to ask for any form of payment over the phone. Do not give out your personal information to bogus callers. Report any fake calls to (800) 375-5283.
If someone calls you claiming to be from the IRS and it seems suspicious, call the real IRS at (800) 829-1040 to determine whether the agency has a legitimate need to contact you.
The real IRS won't ask you to give detailed personal and financial information like PIN numbers, passwords or similar access info for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. If someone wants that, they're up to no good.
Also, the IRS doesn't initiate communications with taxpayers via email. So, if you get an email claiming you owe money to the IRS or are due to get a refund, it's fake. Don't reply to it, and don't open the attachments or click on the links.
The Internet is a great tool for scammers, but it works for consumers, too. If you're unsure about a phone number that called you, plug it into a crowd-sourcing site like 800notes.com and see whether other consumers are reporting complaints.
- The ABC News Fixer
Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.