At least, she hoped something was wrong.
Stephens was at her home when she got an unexpected phone call from (202) 280-7395, the area code representing Washington D.C., but she quickly knew something was wrong.
“It was a foreign man, kind of a heavy accent,” she said.
The man told her he was an agent for the Internal Revenue Serve, that there was a miscalculation on her 2010 tax return, her assets were frozen, her driver’s license suspended and federal agents were on their way to arrest her.
She was sure there was a mistake, but the man was so convincing.
“I was very intimidated,” Stephens said.
He wouldn’t provide much more information, only repeating what he’d already told her. The man also demanded that she pay $3,700 to rectify things.
Thinking fast, Stephens’ husband Wade looked up the phone number on the Internet.
Google quickly returned the word they were both thinking — scam.
When the man transferred her to his “supervisor” for payment, she hung up.
“I don’t know if he was going to take payment,” she said. “I didn’t stay on the phone long enough.”
But others, perhaps some who are more gullible or don’t have ready Internet access, may not be so lucky. The elderly are also potential targets.
Stephens isn’t the only Cobb resident contacted through the IRS scam. The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office received several complaints about it and has issued a press release warning residents about the danger.
According to the release from the sheriff’s office, the caller demands a prepaid debit card, wire transfer or a credit card number for payment.
If the person doesn’t pay, that’s when the threats to arrest, seize property or take away a driver’s license happens. The release says the caller often becomes hostile and insulting.
“People are sensitive to the fact that their taxes were due April 15,” said Sheriff Neil Warren in the release. “This makes them a prime target for such a scam. If you receive such a call, do not provide any personal information, just hang up.”
Though the phone number has a Washington, D.C. area code on caller ID system, a caller’s whereabouts can can also faked, making it extremely difficult to track.
The man left a voicemail on Stephens’ phone, and picked up when she called back, calling himself “Officer Alex Cooper.” The scammers even provide a phony badge number and sometimes can provide the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
After some research, Stephens now has some advice of her own.
“The IRS sends you mail first if there is a problem, not a phone call,” she said. “Our friend, an attorney, said they would not contact you first via phone, you’d get notice. So we gave the number over to the sheriff’s office. There are a lot of dishonest people out there.”
For more information, go to the IRS website at IRS.gov or call (800) 829-1040.