When IRS scammers called, police and a sheriff answered

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Originally published May 12, 2016 GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - You probably already know, but the call goes like this: "Hello, we have been trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from IRS, Internal Revenue Services. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing a lawsuit against you."

That's the phone call many people across Northeast Wisconsin have been getting. We've reported on this scam for two years and it's not letting up.

The caller threatens that you'll be arrested, jailed, deported or sued unless you make a payment -- to them. It may be an automated robocall asking you to call back, to make it seem more professional and authentic.

In a relatively new twist, some callers aren't threatening but rather offering to help fix some information in your tax return. The motive is the same: To get your personal information. To steal your money.

Police and sheriff's departments are getting swamped with calls from people who were targets.

"30-ish just at our front desk right now, and those are just people that are calling in telling us about it," Jedd Bradley of the De Pere Police Department said.

The Calumet and Dodge county sheriff's and Green Bay and Oshkosh police departments put out warnings this week. The threatening phone calls especially heated up before and after Tax Day.

"These calls are completely fake and residents should immediately hang up the phone," the Calumet County Sheriff's Department advised.

Green Bay Police took to Facebook to remind people, "The IRS never communicates through phone."

"The phone numbers used in these scams are, for the most part, untraceable," Oshkosh Police said.

Bradley thinks the scammers are just going through numbers, like in a phone book, to find their victims, and right now our area must be at the top of their list.

Police officers and the Dodge County sheriff got the calls, too. Officer Bradley received a call on his work phone.

"My department cell phone rang. I answered it, and it was the IRS scam."

Bradley called them back. They asked for his personal information, including name and date of birth.

"I played along a little bit with them, and then I explained to them they called the De Pere Police Department, and they challenged me on that. They ended up hanging up, but they won't take my phone call at this time."

Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt was also on the receiving end of an "IRS" call. He called back and asked the woman who answered if she could verify she's with the IRS. "It is not our job to verify who we are," she said, and hung up.

Sheriff Schmidt called again, and this time spoke with a man. The sheriff provided this edited transcript of their conversation:

Scammer: "Thank you for calling the Internal Revenue Service. How may I help you?"
Sheriff: "I am the sheriff in Dodge County, Wisconsin, and I had a complaint about this number, and I am trying to confirm that this is in fact the IRS. Is there a way that you can confirm this for me?"
Scammer: "No, sir. This is not the IRS. This is a scam."
Sheriff: "This is a scam?"
Scammer: "Yes."
Sheriff: "OK. Can you tell me where you are from, where you are located?"
Scammer: "In Afghanistan."
Sheriff: "In Afghanistan?"
Scammer: "Yes."
Sheriff: "Can you tell me your name?"
Scammer: "Malma Dahli" (spelling uncertain)
Sheriff: "Why are you scamming our citizens?"
Scammer: "Mm, this is our job, sir."
Sheriff: "You're stealing money from people."
Scammer: "Yes."
Sheriff: "And why are you doing that?"
At this time the scammer hangs up.

Officer Bradley says while scams like this aren't new, they're working. That could be why the scammers keep calling.

"I think we're becoming more victimized, if you will, which is not a good thing. People are falling for it more. So they're seeing those people make a buck off of it, so instead of going to work, these people are doing this," Bradley said. "You and I get up in the morning, we go to work. These guys get up and they go to work, too, but this is their job."

Police are encouraging you to help put the scammers out of a job by not working with them.

Police advise if you get a threatening call from someone saying they're with the IRS, tell the caller you know it's a scam, then hang up.

Do not provide them with any personal information (the IRS already knows it). Do not provide any form of payment. If you get a robocall, do not call it back.

Do not engage them any further.

Green Bay Police advised, "If you have caller ID, it is best practice to not answer phone numbers you do not recognize."

Oshkosh Police also asked citizens, if you get these phone calls do not to call the police department to report it -- unless you provided information to the caller and may suffer a financial loss. Police are well aware of the calls already, and as noted earlier, most of them are untraceable.

The Dodge County sheriff says scammers know how to "spoof" -- or fake -- a phone number, to make a phone call from outside the country look like it's coming from any U.S. area code. A phone number he was given by the scammers was the private phone number of a woman in Illinois.

Is there any end in sight? Not likely. The Wisconsin Department of Consumer Protection tells us last year the calls didn't slow down until October.

Just before tax time, Frank Frassetto, administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Consumer Protection, told us, "While we look at April 18th as the last day to file your taxes, this, I don't think, is going to go away."

If you want to report these calls, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, or report them to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at http://www.tigta.gov or by calling 1-800-366-4484.

If you're concerned that you may have a tax problem, call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1040.