IRS impostor calling residents in Tri-Cities demanding money or arrest

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- An old phone skim is on the rise right now in Hawkins and Sullivan counties.

The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office each released notices to the media Friday warning about it. They said several residents have reported an IRS impostor called them, said they owe taxes and demanded immediate payment or a warrant would be issued for their arrest.

“In the last two day’s we’ve received at least 10 phone calls from residents,” said Leslie Earhart, public information officer with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.

The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office said it “has received an increasing number of citizen complaints concerning being contacted by various federal agencies such as the IRS, FBI, and DEA via telephone calls and email.”

Libby Smith received one of those calls a couple weeks ago. “He was saying that I misfiled my taxes in 2012 and that I owed the IRS $3,200 and some dollars.” She said she immediately knew it was a scam, but played along to get more information from the caller. She said the man told her to go to the bank and withdraw the money. She recalled part of their conversation, in which the caller said, “Don’t hang the phone up, just leave it off and when you get back pick the phone up and I’ll be here.”

Smith said she hung twice and the caller called back both times. She also alerted the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.

Smith said she also received an automated message on her answering machine that said in part, “The reason of this call is to inform you the IRS is filing lawsuit against you.”

Earhart said, “This is a scam. The IRS will never call you and try to intimidate you.” Earhart said people should hang up as soon as they realize it’s a scam.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission said nearly 57,000 complaints about IRS imposter scams were reported in the U.S.

“We just want to educate the public and encourage residents who are already aware of this scam to go out, talk to friends, neighbors, family members, and make them aware of this scam,” Earhart said.

To learn more about this topic or to report a scam phone call, visit

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