Officials: Con Artists stealing billions from unsuspecting victims

PHILADELPHIA, PA (WTXF) - Con artists are making tax season open season on unsuspecting victims and there are literally billions of dollars at stake.

The scammers are nailing their victims in two very different ways. You might say they're getting us coming and going whether we owe money to the IRS or are expecting a check from Uncle Sam.

This is information you need to know:

Bella Englebach is talking about the phone message she received several weeks ago. It sounded a little like this…

"IRS has filed lawsuit against you..."

"When the message first came up, it's unnerving.  Because you think, 'that's scary.'  Law enforcement,
Englebach said.

"You haven't done anything wrong, but somebody thinks you have," FOX 29’s Bruce Gordon asked.

"Somebody thinks I have," she replied.

Bella smelled a phone scam, and never responded to the phone call.

"Sounds like you dodged a bullet there," Bruce said.

"I think so.  Yeah, I think I did," Englebach replied.

Nicole Cassidy wasn't so lucky.

She says she filled out her income taxes earlier this month, using TurboTax, and expecting a nice big refund.

"And then when I went to submit it, it bounced back at me and said, 'you've already submitted it.'" 

A scammer had apparently stolen her identity and beat her to the punch filing her return for her refund-- before she could do it herself!

Her reaction…

"Like, panic.  Scared, upset.  Kind of like a violated feeling," Cassidy said.

Two case studies with two kinds of fraud are making rounds this tax season.

The IRS will pay out an estimated $20 billion in fraudulent claims made by identity thieves and individuals will shell out $25 million to con artists posing as the government over the phone.

Pat Meehan sits on the congressional committee that oversees the IRS.  He says some of the con artistry is high-tech stuff.

"Frequently on phones today, we'll see caller ID, and we're seeing the scammers alter their phone to make it look like it was from the IRS," Meehan said.  "We cannot track the numbers down.  They use phones that are un-trackable.  And once the money is paid out, we have not been able to recover any of the funds deleted from their personal accounts."

In Ridley Township alone this past month, police report 50 to 60 calls from would be victims of IRS phone scams.

Nicole Cassidy tells me Turbotax has been aggressive in investigating her case and involving law enforcement.

She'll get her refund, but she's now been told to expect a 3 to 6 month wait.

Click here for the information you need to avoid being victimized by these scams

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