Chalk up a win for the good guys. Finally. A sharp bank teller and Lafayette police headed off one of those insidious IRS phone scams in real-time Monday – saving a woman a large sum of money as she was withdrawing cash to send the scammer at an undisclosed location.
The scam, reported ad nauseum on this site, generally targets older residents with the bogus “agents” convincing their victims that they need to pay off a large IRS-sanctioned fine or face jail time. Law enforcement estimates the scam has netted people like the two pictured here, arrested recently in Texas, millions from innocent people who pay up out of fear.
That was the case Monday as the unnamed victim in this incident walked into the Mechanics Bank branch at 3640 Mt. Diablo Blvd shortly after noon, actually on the telephone with her scammer, and raising suspicions among the tellers when she swayed from her usual bank routine.
Police said the woman appeared “frazzled,” approaching a teller window and saying she had the IRS on her phone and needed to withdraw money to pay back taxes. The amount of money was not immediately disclosed.
Immediately suspicious, a teller attempted to tell the woman about the IRS scam and said she shouldn’t send any money but the woman, obviously under the sway of the scammer, was adamant that she needed the funds.
The teller, who had learned of the scam from her father, told the customer about foreign callers pretending to be IRS agents and called police when the woman refused to believe her. Two officers arrived and spent “a few moments” with the customer until she understood she was being scammed, police said.
“Great job by the teller in this case,” said Lafayette Police Chief Eric Christensen. “(She) prevented the customer from losing her money.”
Investigators got on the phone in an effort to get the scammers to reveal themselves, Christensen said, and came away impressed by the sophistication of their delivery.
“I called the number and the thing really does sound like it is real,” he said. “I really don’t blame people for falling for it. As always, if people don’t know, they should call us to verify that the caller is real.”
The IRS has warned taxpayers of the fraud a number of times in recent months, stressing that the service never demands money for back taxes over the telephone.