(CBS11 I-TEAM) – “Aren’t you concerned that you are committing a crime?” asked CBS 11 I-Team Investigator Ginger Allen.
“Yes, I’m a criminal. I am a criminal,” said the man on the phone.
“And you’re proud of that?” she asked.
“Yes, I am proud of that,” the man answered.
Just minutes before claiming to be a criminal, the man on the phone told Allen she had reached the Internal Revenue Service. He said his name was Officer Steve Jones.
Once we identified ourselves, his story changed.
“My name is Ginger. I’m with CBS 11 I-Team. The U.S. government says you are committing a crime and this is part of a scam.”
“If you think I am scam artist. Hang up the call,” said the man.
The I-team got the number from Wylie resident Scott Nagel. It was on a voice mail he received several weeks ago telling him he owed the Internal Revenue Service thousands of dollars. When Nagel first called, he says a man claiming to be with the IRS told him he needed to pay up or he would be arrested.
It’s the same threat we heard when the I-team first called.
“Within an hour, an officer from the local law enforcement will be at your place with a warrant, and they will put you behind bars,” a man claiming to be an agent told us.
Investigative Reporter Ginger Allen quickly explained that she did not believe him. “Sir, I understand you’ve made this threat to many, many people and that has not happened.”
Without hesitation, the man became irritated and was ready for us to hang up. “If you know about that, so why are you wasting my time and your time also?”
“Aren’t you concerned that you are committing a crime?” Allen asked.
“I’m a criminal. I am a criminal,” he responded.
We called the number several times and talked to several different people who answered the phone. We repeatedly identified ourselves as journalists calling from the CBS station in Dallas, Texas.
“You know…I am a scammer so why do you keep calling me? Just hang up the call. I told you that’s what I am.”
“Why are your scamming people?” Allen asked.
“It’s my matter,” the man answered.
“Is it easy?”
“Yes, it’s very easy to fool a few.”
“How many people do you fool a day?”
The IRS says these phone scams, along with identity theft and phishing schemes, are now topping its just released “Dirty Dozen List” of tax fraud. Some of the crimes are up 400-percent this tax season.
Allen asked, “How much money have you taken from us citizens?”
The man answered, “Thousands and thousands.”
Nagel says he has probably called the number 50 times over the past few weeks just to hassle the thieves. He says one woman who often answers the phone brags about having no fear of authorities.
“She says they don’t do anything. (She said) I’ve been doing this for years. My sister started this business. She told me I drive three cars. We bring $80,000 in every three hours.”
Allen asked the man who answered the phone, “Aren’t you afraid authorities will come after you?
“No, no not afraid….You are wasting my time.”
“What do you say to the people who you took money from?” asked Allen.
“You are a fool. Are you an idiot?” he answered.
This has become such a problem, some local stores, that wire money and sell debit cards, have signs up warning customers not to send money to people who make these demands.
A spokesperson with the Internal Revenue Service tells the I-team that impersonating a federal officer can be punished under 18 United States Code, Section 912. In one recent case, a ringleader of one of these schemes is serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration investigates the crimes. You can report IRS scam phone calls on its website.
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