LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A popular scam is spreading through Kentucky right now. It's tax season, and the last thing people want to hear is the IRS is suing you or threatening to arrest you. But that's precisely the message being left on many phones, and some people are falling for the scam and losing hundreds of dollars.
It happened to Christi Tackett of Montgomery County. A message was left on her phone claiming that she needed to call back as soon as possible or else charges would be pressed, and she'd be arrested.
Tackett called the number back, listed on the phone as coming from Homestead, Florida. She described the experience as "Very intimidating. Freaking me out intimidating."
"They told me I couldn't hang up the phone. I had to do this right now. If not, it would go to court. And I'd owe more than $500, it'd be more like $25,000," Tackett said.
She says went to Kroger, still on the phone with the man, who told her to get five $100 iTunes gift cards and read him the numbers off the back of each card.
Tackett says after giving the man the original gift card codes, he put her on hold, claiming to talk to his supervisor. He then came back and told Tackett that she owed $450 more and told her to go back to the store and get more gift cards.
"And that's when I was like, 'This is crazy,' and hung up on him," she says.
She's not the only one receiving calls from someone claiming to be with the IRS. Recently, a message was left on the work phone of WKYT's Sam Dick, saying:
"There is a lawsuit filed against you by the Internal Revenue Service, and there is a non-bail arrest warrant issued under your name, so before we move forward with the lawsuit and illegal allegation, contact us as soon as possible."
Heather Clary of the Better Business Bureau says, "It's the heart in the throat moment, and that's what the con artists are going for -the shock value."
Clary says the con artists want you to pay over the phone with a pre-paid card that you can reload, like an iTunes gift card.
"Some people have questioned why an iTunes card. You can't cancel it. And of course, that is also untraceable. Once you read those numbers off the back of it to the con artists, they empty the account," she explained.
Sam Dick called the number left on his phone, listed as coming from Arcadia, California. The number had been disconnected.
Clary says con artists use special equipment to spoof the phone number, meaning the number shows up on your message as coming from the United States, but in fact, it's probably from another country.
Clary says, if you get a message that claims to be from the IRS, don't return the call. She said last year, the number one reported scam to the BBB was impersonating the IRS by phone.
The IRS says on their website that they "only contact you by postal mail. We do not call you on the phone. We do not email you. We certainly do not request or demand payment by a specific method." Officials say do not return the calls of these scammers.