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Government & Politics

Consumer Agencies Warn Ohioans of Fake IRS Phone Calls

Photo illustration of cell phone
PEDRORFERNANDES
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SHUTTERSHOCK

As Ohioans prepare their taxes for filing before next month's deadline, local consumer protection agencies are warning of a popular scam:  the fake IRS collection notice. 

Here's how the scheme usually works. You get a call on the phone from someone claiming to be with the IRS.

"They say, 'You owe us a bunch of money but just send us a few thousand dollars in gift cards and we'll call it even,'" says Sheryl Harris, who heads up Cuyahoga County's Department of Consumer Affairs
 

Graph representing nationwide loss in 2017 due to fraud
Credit CONSUMER SENTINEL NETWORK DATA BOOK 2017
In 2017, the nationwide loss due to fraud was $905 million, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

She notes that no legitimate government agency would ask for, or accept, such forms of payment.

The agency is holding a series of events this week to raise awareness of various scams.

Harris says fake tax collection calls are one of the most common. She says her agency gets dozens of complaints about them every year, but the actual number is probably much higher. That's because the victims, who tend to be young and middle-aged, are embarrassed about it.

"We estimate that about only 1-in-20 scams ever gets reported."

And Harris says that's a problem, because one of the best ways to prevent someone from getting scammed, is to tell others about it.