SUGAR LAND, Texas - A Sugar Land woman is warning others to be on guard against scammers claiming to be calling from the IRS.
"I was terrified. It's the IRS. You don't hang up on them," said Michelle Renfrow.
She called Eyewitness News on Wednesday after receiving a call during which she was told she owed nearly $5,000 in taxes.
Renfrow said they brushed off her attempts to verify they were legit.
The caller bullied her verbally, she says, promising there would be a warrant issued for her arrest immediately if she did not drive right to the bank, and withdraw cash. She says the caller told her if she hung up or even mentioned to anyone at the bank what she was doing, they would send deputies to arrest her.
In the back of her mind she questioned from the beginning if this was a scam. But the caller, she says, was persistent.
"I'm not a pushover, but I was so terrified. The threat of losing all of my money and the threat of being sent to jail was really in the forefront of keeping me in the conversation. These guys deserve a Tony for their performance. It was so accurate," she lamented.
Renfrow withdrew several thousand dollars from the bank.
But when the caller told her to put it all on Target gift cards, she realized she was being scammed.
"I'm angry. I want people to protect themselves now," she said.
Authorities say this is a scam they're hearing more and more about lately.
In fact, according to the IRS, 124 people in Texas have reported they were victims of this type of IRS phone impersonation scam through September. They claimed losses of nearly a half-million dollars.
Authorities say if you receive a phone call from anyone claiming to be from the IRS you should:
- Record the person's name, badge number and call back number if possible
- Call (800) 366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.
If you are suspicious about the call you can report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line should read "IRS phone Scam."
The Federal Trade Commission also has helpful tips in this infographic you can find here.