On Tuesday, Sarah Carr of Broomfield, Colorado, received a voicemail telling her there was a warrant out for her arrest.
The man claimed to be an IRS agent and that Carr was being investigated for tax fraud.
"I called him back and he seemed really legitimate," the 29-year-old business owner told BuzzFeed News. "He gave me his IRS badge number and an IRS.gov URL that had records of his employment."
Carr said the man then recited her "federal case number" and told her she was being charged with tax fraud for the years 2007 to 2010.
"Your local police department will come pick you up in two hours," the scammer told Carr. "Do you have a criminal defense attorney?"
When Carr protested, she said the scammer told her: "We have sent 37 warnings to the following address," and listed her mother's home address.
He continued to list the addresses of all of her properties, including the wedding and event space she owns and runs, as well as personal information Carr was previously convinced only someone who had seen her taxes could know.
"I started sobbing hysterically and said, 'I don't know what to do, I'm nine months pregnant,'" Carr said.
The scammer then interrupted her, saying, "Wait! Stop crying. It's a scam. It's not real. You're not going to jail."
Carr says the man kept repeating, "I'm so sorry, please stop crying."
The man then added: "We didn't know you were pregnant. We'll add your number so you'll never get called again. The IRS would never call you on the phone."
Carr said at the end of the call he asked if there was anything else he could do to help her.
This type of scam is apparently very common, but as the scammer assured Carr, the real IRS never makes phone calls to those being charged.
In this scam, a group gathers your personal information from online purchases and subscriptions, poses as the IRS, threatens you with arrest, and bullies you into paying a "fine" or "preemptive bail" over the phone.
Carr's uncle, who is a lawyer, called the number back and spoke to the scammer. Carr says the man picked up, but pretended he had been scammed as well. He then quickly hung up and never answered again.
"What scammers do is play off your vulnerabilities," Carr told BuzzFeed News. "From his extreme reaction it seemed like I found his vulnerability instead."
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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