The Austin Police Department warned the public Thursday about an Internal Revenue Service phone scam in which the scammer used a caller ID that was identical to an APD number.
Several people received the call and were threatened with arrest, deportation and other consequences if they did not pay off a debt immediately. When those who received the call called back, they found APD on the other line.
“The IRS does not call you and make these kinds of arrangements to make immediate payment,” APD Commander Pat Connor said. “APD does not call anyone soliciting money. If somebody were to ever receive a phone call from APD saying anything along the lines of ‘you have a ticket, you need to pay it now over the phone,’ we don’t do that.”
Connor said this kind of phone scam is widespread across the country, and some scammers are able to mimic numbers that look local, even if the scammers themselves aren’t in the United States.
“There’s always some type of phone scam going on,” Connor said. “The scary thing is there are (scammers) from all over the world. When you see the caller ID saying it’s an Austin number, they may be in Canada or somewhere else.”
Of the Austinites who were called by the scammer Thursday morning, none fell victim to the plot, Connor said.
Cindy Posey, director of internal and campus safety communications, said in a statement UT Police Department is aware of these kinds of scams and warns students not to give away information over the phone.
“Do not fall for this scam, or any scam, where someone is requesting money via a phone call, even if the phone number appears to be legitimate,” Posey said. “Always hang up, ignore their threats, and if you feel unsafe, dial 911 and tell law enforcement about the incident.”
UT alumna Sherry Tucci said she gets similar scam calls at least three times a week.
“Sometimes it’s really bad and they’ll call me three times a day,” Tucci said. “They try to ease you into giving them information about you. Nowadays I just ignore the call.”
Tucci said she can usually recognize the signs that a phone call is a scam.
“I can tell when someone is trying to sell me something,” Tucci said. “If they’re kind of dodgy or they’re not specific about things, you can tell that they’re trying to make you feel like you’re getting what you want, but in reality they’re just getting your information.”
Connor said it’s important to remember that a government office will never call a citizen directly to demand something from them.
“The most important takeaway from this is that the IRS or the police department are not going to call you or call anyone to demand money over the phone and threaten to arrest you,” Connor said. “We’re not going to ask for payment over the phone.”