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IRS scammer uses spoofed agency number to appear legitimate

Police are warning of a spike in a lingering scam involving a bogus IRS agent who calls from what appears to be a number linked to the agency to demand money. 

Medford police reported the scam has been ongoing but saw an apparent surge in frequency Wednesday, with 10 complaints in a 24-hour period. 

"We've received dozens (of calls) over the last couple months," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.

The person who calls has a thick accent and claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service. The caller tells people they are late on their taxes and that they must pay up using a prepaid "Green Dot" Mastercard or Visa gift card. The caller also knows the victim's address and name and the apparent number of an IRS office shows up on the caller ID, police said.

The issue with spoofed phone numbers is nothing new. Back in April, the Oregon Attorney General's Office warned of a similar sophisticated scam, complete with the fake number, fake IRS badge numbers and fake names.

"People have done this before," Budreau said.

Spoofed numbers have even hit close to home for law enforcement. In 2012, a scammer tricked a woman out of $6,000 by telling her she had won a sizable amount of money from the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, but  she would need to pay $6,000 in state taxes to collect the prize. When the woman became suspicious, the caller said a representative from Medford police would contact her to validate the call. They did call back, using a spoofed number and claiming to be Detective Sgt. Brent Mak, who investigates financial crimes for the agency. The ruse worked and the woman wired the money, Budreau said.

Those who think they may owe taxes should call either the IRS at 800-829-1040 or the Oregon Department of Revenue at 800-356-4222, but should hang up if contacted.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.