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University student loses $7,700 to IRS fraud

Crime Watch

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REXBURG — A Brigham Young University-Idaho student lost $7,700 to fraudsters claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service this week.

Police say the female student received a call from a person posing as an IRS agent and demanding back taxes. The fraudster told the victim if she did not purchase Google Play gift cards, and give them the personal identification number, they would send the police to arrest her.

“They can sound pretty darn convincing,” Rexburg Police Detective David Stubbs said. “They do research, and they know basic details about where (the victims) live … and they tell them they’re going to send the Rexburg Police Department to arrest them.”

In this case, it worked — the student, using a checking account and two maxed out credit cards, bought the gift cards and paid the scammers.

Stubbs said it’s nearly impossible to recover scammed money since most of the fraudsters are located overseas and beyond the jurisdiction of local authorities. He also said the federal agencies only get involved if the amount of money is very large.

A separate, but nearly identical case, didn’t turn out so badly. Police reports show scammers posing as the IRS contacted another female student and demanded $2,000. She bought the gift cards, but visited the police department before giving the PIN and was able to keep her money.

Stubbs says Rexburg police receive five to 10 reports of scams a week — mostly involving very young college students or the elderly. The amount demanded in these two scams was larger than usual — in about half the cases, the victims end up paying the scammers several hundred dollars up to $1,000.

“For a lot of these kids this is their first time out, and they’ve never had to do taxes, and they don’t know how the system works yet,” Stubbs said.

Stubbs says this time of year it’s important to be wary of calls from people claiming to be the IRS.

The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Generally, the IRS will first mail you if you owe back taxes. They will also never demand money via gift cards or wire transfer.

Click here for more information on IRS scams.