"The Internal Revenue Service has issued arrest warrants against you."
"The issue at hand is extremely time-sensitive."
"Your case number is CS 79621."
Threatening calls made to Colorado Springs residents every single day, telling them to pay up or they'll soon be arrested.
Jeanette Sullivan told me, "To leave that kind of message, it is kind of scary. I'm going to tell you, it got my attention."
Gene Bray said, “Well, that's a call I'm not going to call back."
The dreaded IRS scam phone calls. Colorado ranked 13th in the U.S. for victims falling for the scheme. So far, 122 Colorado residents have been victimized, losing more than $680,000. And nationwide the scam has cost Americans $30 million.
To find out if federal agents are having any success in shutting down the fraudsters, I traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with Timothy Camus, who's overseeing the investigation.
He told us, “A lot of progress is being made. We have over 100 open criminal investigations. It's a very complex crime because the number of victims and the number of people who are doing it."
For the last few years I’ve asked you to call this Washington, D.C. office with the phone numbers the crooks are giving you. That's making a tremendous difference because now, those numbers are being shut down.
Camus said, "We are working with the phone companies to take those numbers offline as soon as possible. In doing that, 75 percent of those numbers have been disabled. Many of them within a week."
Camus says before those phone numbers are shut down, his agents call the bad guys themselves with a simple message.
“They're under criminal investigation, and what they're doing is a federal crime, and they will be prosecuted for it."
Agents have made 59,000 calls, tying up the fraudsters' lines and solidifying their criminal cases against them. Then the crooks' numbers are taken down. The result? It's taking longer for the bad guys to latch onto a victim.
Camus explained, "At the beginning of the scam we were in the double digits. It would take them 50 calls to get one victim. Now we're in the hundreds of calls before they get one victim."
Still, Camus hears of crooks scoring on 50 to 60 victims each week. So where are these calls actually coming from?
He says thousands originate in India, others here in the U.S.
One case involved a Pennsylvania man who ran call centers in India. Sahil Patel pleaded guilty and received a 14-year federal sentence. He admitted to scaring hundreds of victims into forking over more than $1 million. And Patel is just one of many, many crooks.
Camus said, "It is without a doubt the worst I’ve seen of 25 years in this job. It is the worst."
When I shared that oftentimes southern Colorado and the 719 area code would be inundated with calls, Camus told me that he and his boss had been called, as well as several high ranking government officials. And that's not the strangest part.
Camus told us, "A whole street has received a phone call...all the neighbors on a street, because I believe they are getting the mailing lists and the contact information from multiple sources."
He says it's important for all of us to be on guard. Camus believes if he can go from 50 victims a week to just 10, then the crooks will decide the scam isn't worth their time and move on to something else. We can only hope.
Besides making threatening phone calls, the thieves are sending fraudulent emails, too.
Again, it's very important not to respond to those and report those phone numbers to the feds.