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IRS Scam Targeting Vulnerable Segment Of The Community

DENVER (CBS4) - You've probably gotten the call. If you haven't personally, you surely know someone who has. The Internal Revenue Service phone scam has been going around the country for several years now. It's a huge problem for law enforcement and now the scammers are targeting a particularly vulnerable segment of the community.

There are a few variations on the scam, but generally someone calls you pretending to be an IRS agent. They are aggressive and urgent, telling you that you owe taxes and that you have to pay them now because there is a warrant out for your arrest and agent on their way to arrest you. The scammers direct you to transfer money to them.

Mirna Castro got the call.

"When you look at the caller ID on your phone, it looks real. It's from Washington, DC, it's a phone number and then they're identifying themselves from the IRS," Castro recalled.

She didn't fall for the scam. She quickly looked up the number and realized that it wasn't legitimate. But she can see why other people might be drawn in.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (the investigative arm of the Internal Revenue Service) issued a warning about the phone scam at the beginning of this year. TIGTA got 290,000 reports about the scam in the last two years. Investigators identified nearly 3,000 victims of the scam who have paid collectively more than $14 million.

LINK: IRS Warning

"They're successful and they're finding new people to tap," said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

The IRS scam has been particularly difficult for law enforcement. They continue to get complaints about the calls, and the scammers are incredibly hard to track down. They're spoofing phone numbers, using burner phones and often times on foreign soil. The scam historically has been targeted toward senior citizens with the goal of confusing them and making them act quickly. Now, investigators at the Colorado Attorney General's Office say the thieves are targeting a new community.

"There has been an increase in calls to Spanish-speaking communities ... to Hispanic and Latino customers," Coffman told CBS4.

"We're vulnerable. We're very vulnerable," Castro said.

Castro works within the Hispanic community at Servicios De La Raza. She said that many of the clients she works with could easily fall victim to a scam like this because they're unsure how the United States government works, and they wouldn't know that the IRS would not call a taxpayer directly.

"You get a call from the IRS, you're going to respond because your concern is to make sure that you're okay with whatever government system you're in," Castro explained.

Attorney General Coffman stresses that education is the key to stopping this scam. She said that when you get the call make sure you don't panic, that you remember that the IRS will never call a taxpayer directly, and that you simply hang up the phone.

"It's immoral. It's just so unfair to do this to a community that's already struggling ... living paycheck to paycheck," Castro added.

The Colorado Attorney General's Office does want to hear from you if you get the IRS scam call. They do track the calls.

LINK: Report An IRS Scam Phone Call

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you'd like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.

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