Woman warns of IRS scam call that felt ‘like it was real’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) —  A threat of jail time was not enough to trick a central Indiana mom.

Amanda Cole called I-Team 8 because she wants to warn others.

A voicemail from a strange number put Cole on alert: Was she about to fall victim to a scam?

The recording said there was a federal warrant out for her arrest for tax fraud.

“I thought in the back of my mind it was a scam, but then I’m thinking, ‘What if it’s not? What if I really do have a warrant out for my arrest, and I don’t even know what has happened?'” said Cole.

The amount of money they said she owed made her think twice. It was close to the same amount she owes on her student loans.

“It made me feel like it was real, like it was not a scam,” said Cole.

The man on the other end of the line had even more information to make Cole think they were the real deal. He gave her a case number, an officer’s badge number, even a dot-gov website where she could make payments. I-Team 8 showed the website to Tim Maniscalo, president of Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving central Indiana.

“That’s the first I’ve actually seen something like that,” said Maniscalo of the website, “so that’s a little twist here that I haven’t seen before.”

Maniscalo said he didn’t even know how the scammers got a dot-gov website, but a website address doesn’t mean they’re with the IRS.

“First thing you should know is this is not how the IRS is going to contact you,” Maniscalo said. “They’re going to contact you via letter. It’s going to be very official; they’re not going to make you do something immediate.”

But the seemingly official messages definitely scared Cole.

“After I got off the phone, I was in, basically, a full anxiety attack, panic mode,” she said.

What should you do if you get a scam call? Maniscalo recommends the following:

  • Hang up! Do not engage them
  • Report it to law enforcement, like Cole did
  • Report it to the BBB’s Scam Tracker here.

Cole called the police and then called I-Team 8 because she doesn’t want anyone to fall for the scam.

Cole wrote down both of the phone numbers the scammer used.

They had Washington state area codes, but when I-Team 8 tried to call them back, they had been disconnected. Maniscalo says the area codes can be faked, and these people could be calling from anywhere. He said there are apps to disguise your phone number, and the calls are likely coming from outside the country.