Idaho attorney general warns of telephone scam

Swindlers pose as aggressive federal agents, Wasden says.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comJuly 17, 2014 

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Idaho attorney general Lawrence Wasden discusses the state's plans to sue the federal government over health care reform legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

JOE JASZEWSKI — Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman


    Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden on Wednesday released his agency's Consumer Protection Division annual report, detailing the division's enforcement activities during the 2014 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

    One of the year's biggest highlights is the state and Federal Trade Commission's victory in the antitrust case against St. Luke's Health System over its acquisition of Saltzer Medical Group. Other highlights:

    • The division's 829 complaints last year is a 19 percent decrease from 2013 and a 56 percent decrease from the 1,896 complaints received in 2009, which was the peak of the national foreclosure crisis. Top 2014 complaint categories were motor vehicles, loans/lenders and landlord-tenant.

    • The division recovered $2 million in restitution for Idahoans, $2.72 for every taxpayer dollar appropriated to the division last year.

    • Idaho joined other states to settle antitrust lawsuits against e-book publishers and memory chip manufacturers.

    • The state received $27.4 million under the tobacco manufacturers settlement, bringing the total payments to Idaho to $382.3 million.

    • The division implemented a $100 million Idaho mortgage foreclosure settlement and settled with another mortgage servicer.

If you get an unexpected call from the Internal Revenue Service saying you owe back taxes, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has some advice: Hang up.

Phony IRS agent telephone calls have increased in Idaho in recent months, Wasden said.

The scam works this way: A caller posing as an IRS agent says the victim owes back taxes. If not paid immediately, the victim faces arrest, deportation or having liens placed on home or automobile. Some victims are threatened with bodily harm. The caller demands payment via credit card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

"Just simply hang up on these crooks," Wasden said. If the IRS has official business with you, it will send written notification of any taxes due, not make a phone call, he said.

This month the Attorney General's Office recorded an IRS agent scam call made to a former office employee and posted the 17-minute recording to its website.

"Listening to the dialogue is fascinating - and at the same time deeply upsetting to hear an actual crook try to steal money," Wasden said.

Deana DuVall, of Meridian, and Jennifer Pedregon, of Boise, both recounted their experiences with IRS scam calls at a news conference Wednesday. Each became suspicious and filed complaints with the Attorney General's Office. DuVall continues to receive calls, including one as recently as last week. At times the caller has threatened to have her husband immediately arrested if he does not pay.

Some of the callers are savvy - they program caller ID to read "IRS toll-free number," give an IRS badge number, cite IRS code and know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security number or other personal information, Wasden said.

These scammers will target anyone, even an Idaho Supreme Court justice, Wasden said.

Justice Jim Jones and his wife, Kelly, were contacted last month by what they described as very aggressive telemarketers who promised to arrive at their door the following morning. The Joneses did not fall for it.

"No legitimate business or government agency will make outright threats or request personal identification information over the phone," Jones said in a statement. "When this happens, the best response is simply to hang up. These people want to keep you on the phone and wear down your resistance."

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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