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IRS Impersonators Scamming Seniors Out Of Tens Of Millions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- IRS impersonators are taking aim at seniors in an effort to scam them out of their money.

CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports that scammers are using celebrity names before launching a threat at their unsuspecting victims. A retired man in New Hyde Park got a call from a scammer who said he was Steve Martin and that he was "calling regarding an enforcement action."

"It sounds threatening, court action, magistrates," the retired man told CBS2.

The scammer purported to be from the IRS or Treasury Department with instructions to transfer money.

"It sounds like they are going to lock you up and put you away for whatever you owe," scam victim George Jacobi told CBS2.

The Treasury Department said it is the largest, most pervasive scam in IRS history as the scammers usually direct their victims to the closest Walmart to transfer money.

"It's despicable," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a press conference.

Schumer called on the retail giant to help by placing detailed signage and also have employees inform the victims that they are being scammed.

"[I want] to have employees instruct anyone who comes to take out a money transfer to the IRS, you better wait, there's a scam going on," the Democratic senator said.

AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel said the IRS does not make harassing phone calls.

"The IRS is never going to demand immediate payment on taxes owed. First they send you letters," she said.

Victims have lost $30 million, as many of the money transfers are untraceable. The scam has already claimed more than 5,000 victims.

Walmart told CBS2 they are in the process of taking additional steps to better inform consumers about scams claiming to be government entities.

The calls from scammers appear to come from inside the U.S., often from the Washington, D.C., area, but officials said they are masked with fake caller ID numbers and are from overseas. If this does happen, officials want victims to hang up and report the threat to the Treasury Department Inspector General.

The number to report the threat is 1-800-366-4484.

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