COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — After they were nearly tricked by a fake IRS agent, a refugee family wants to make sure others know about the telephone scam.
Isalm Alhasnawy and her family moved to Cottonwood Heights from Iraq in 2008. She said they've always trusted the American government, but that changed recently when they received a threatening message on their home phone.
The caller claimed he was from the IRS, Islam Alhasnawy said, and that her father had a warrant out for his arrest. The caller said Abdul Karim Alhasnawy had filed his taxes wrong and owed the government a hefty fine.
“We were thinking of literally paying for it and just getting it out of the way,” Islam Alhasnawy said. “We didn’t want him to drive. We didn’t want him to be anywhere he can get caught — because it says he has a warrant and he’s going to be arrested.”
“I trusted the message because he left his name and the case number,” Abdul Karim Alhasnawy said.
After day sof worrying, the family called an lawyer. Family attorney Mary Brown says refugees like the Alhasnawys are a big target for scammers.
“They’re people with very limited information about how things work,” Brown said. “They’re frightened they are doing things wrong. They don’t have people to ask.”
Brown told the Alhasnawys to simply hang up if a caller demands money from them. Because of her advice, their money was never taken. Their trust, however, was lost.
“I don’t know how they know my phone, my number, my address,” Abdul Karim Alhasnawy said. “So, how can I trust in the future?”
Bottom line: the IRS will never ask for money over the phone. If you think a scammer is calling you, hang up and report the call to police.
Unfortunately scammers are relentless, and these types of calls are all too common. For tips on how to avoid such scams, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog.