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June 6, 2014

BISMARCK, ND – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem warns North Dakotans that once again, scam artists are using the name of a government agency in the hope of convincing people that the call is legitimate.

Residents across the state report having received threatening phone messages supposedly from the IRS. The message claims that there is a problem with the IRS and failure to return the call will lead to the individual’s arrest.

“No one wants to get into trouble with the IRS, and that’s what the scam artists are counting on. They hope that anyone receiving such a message will be intimidated into calling back immediately, and that’s where the scam begins,” said Stenehjem.

The calls appear to be another variation of the old “phishing” scam, designed to trick people into revealing sensitive personal and financial information such as their social security number and bank account or credit card information.

“As people generally become more suspicious of attempts to obtain personal information, scam artists are forced to step up their efforts to appear credible,” said Stenehjem. He reminded North Dakotans that the real IRS does not notify individuals of a potential problem by leaving them a threatening phone message.

Stenehjem warns that each time this scam surfaces and warnings are issued, the scam artists simply use the name of a different agency in the hope they can continue to find victims. In previous variations of the phony “enforcement call” phishing scam, the scam artists have pretended to be federal investigators, federal collection agents, and even, in 2009, claimed to be agents from the ND Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Unfortunately, because the calls display a spoofed number, it is almost impossible for law enforcement agencies to track the actual originating telephone number and put a stop to the calls.

Although there are no reports of anyone falling victim to this scam, Parrell Grossman, director of the Consumer Protection Division, urges residents who receive such a message to delete it without response. Consumers who have questions about suspicious voice messages, or who have responded to the message, can call the Consumer Protection division, toll-free at 800-472-2600. 

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