Doris Teno, of Rockford, admits panicking when she recently took a call from someone claiming to be with the Treasury Department who complained that she and her husband hadn’t properly filed their taxes for 2010.
He told her she had to pay him $1,000 or the U.S. marshal would arrive at her house to arrest her and seize her properties.
“He threatened me, since I wasn’t cooperating,” she recalled. “And then he said he’d arrest my husband too.”
Teno was one of thousands nationwide targeted by scammers who pose in calls or emails as Treasury or Internal Revenue Service officials threatening arrest, deportation or loss of property, authorities say.
The thieves seek personal identification information, money orders or prepaid credit or debit cards in order to void the phony arrest warrants, according to Thomas Bruton, clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois estimated that victims have lost a combined $1 million.
The scammers claim to have arrest warrants for offenses ranging from missed jury duty to bank fraud and money laundering. The bogus warrants display logos of unspecified district courts and false case numbers.
The Better Business Bureau said wrongdoers leave voice mail messages warning victims to immediately contact the IRS or face legal consequences. Other voice mails have threatened arrest by deputy marshals for failure to pay taxes in full.