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'Pay up or go to jail' threat from IRS is a scam, investigators say

By Debbie Dujanovic and Tania Mashburn, | Posted - Aug 20th, 2014 @ 10:43pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Scammers are targeting taxpayers in Utah and nationwide. They're posing as IRS agents and leaving their victims threatening messages that are hard to ignore.

Sean and Rachelle Cadina of Smithfield say they got an urgent message supposedly from the IRS. It was distressing enough that they called back immediately.

The caller identified herself as "Anna Brown" with the IRS. She said the Cadinas owed $7,000 in back taxes, and the caller and was very convincing.

"They knew our name," said Sean Cadina. "They also had the proper address from our previous home, so that was kind of weird."

"She said, 'We have a new tax commissioner and you have been audited and you owe taxes from this year and this year,'" Rachelle Cadina said.

The conversation took a turn for the worse when the caller said, "Pay up now or go to jail."

"I was like, 'What?! Did you say jail?'" Rachelle Cadina said she told the caller. "'Wait, wait, I think you have the wrong person!'"

Sean Cadina said the caller wasn't happy when he started questioning her and asking for proof they owed money.

"She got really frustrated and said, 'I'm calling the police right now. They'll be there in 45 minutes,' and hung up the phone," Sean Cadina said.

In just the past few weeks, KSL Investigators have received a flood of emails and calls from viewers who have gotten similar threatening messages. We tried to figure out who was on the other end of the line, but every number we called — supposedly from the IRS — was disconnected.

This is one of the most sophisticated and aggressive phone scams that we've seen in a long, long time.

–Virginia Keys, IRS Criminal Investigation special agent

So we took the threatening messages to Virginia Keys, special agent with IRS Criminal Investigation.

"This is one of the most sophisticated and aggressive phone scams that we've seen in a long, long time," Keys said.

Keys said this year alone, more than 20,000 people nationwide have received threatening phone calls from someone posing as an IRS agent. Many victims fall for the scam and have paid out more than a million dollars collectively.

The IRS warns taxpayers to be wary of threatening phone calls, because those calls aren't coming from IRS agents.

"The IRS does not work that way, whatsoever," Keys said. "We don't leave messages, we don't use the computer voice to tell you that you have a tax issue and you're going to be arrested."

Fortunately for the Cadinas, they didn't fall for the scam.

"Just out of curiosity I said, 'Maybe I'll call the cops just to make sure nobody's coming over,'" Sean Cadina said.

Nobody was.

"It was quite nice to know that everything was OK," Sean Cadina said.

Some important information about the IRS: Investigators say they never call you on the phone or even send emails. If you happen to owe taxes and the IRS needs to contact you, it will send you a letter. That is the only method the agency uses to communicate with you.

If you have any questions about whether the real IRS is trying to reach you, you can always call it at 1-800-829-1040. For more about tax scams and other helpful information, go to

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Debbie Dujanovic
Tania Mashburn

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