Santa Rosa woman talks about losing thousands in IRS scam

The Internal Revenue Service says ripoffs are rampant across the Bay Area and the nation. The most common scam is a phone caller impersonating an IRS agent to steal money.

"He told me that I owed $6,792," fraud victim Colleen Maguire told KTVU. "And I wish I had listened to my intuition."

Maguire's ordeal began with a voice mail message at her Santa Rosa home, requesting a call back because she owed delinquent taxes.

She has filed returns faithfully every year and ignored the call, assuming it was a scam.

But after a few days, she called back, and her good judgment was overcome.

"I felt so threatened," she admitted. "I felt so vulnerable."

The 60-year-old Maguire is a level-headed music teacher, wheelchair-bound since multiple sclerosis forced her from her symphony career.

"I'm not stupid, I'm a human being, and I have feelings," she declared, sharing her own experience to spare others.

"He told me you need to go to your bank and take out cash, and don't tell anybody I'm calling you," Maguire recounted.

She was so convinced, she took a taxi ride from her Roseland district home to her bank to take out $6,000, guided the entire time by the fake IRS representative who stayed on her cell phone.

"He would not let me hang up, because he wanted to give me directions on what to do," recalled Maquire.

Next, she cabbed it over to another bank across town to put that cash into an account number he provided.

"I felt as if I was hypnotized," admits Maguire.

Hours later, she went back to the Wells Fargo branch where she deposited the money and shared her suspicions with the manager, who froze the account.

The IRS says such scams have exploded over the past two years, and are especially prevalent during tax season.

Maguire is among 400,000 documented cases nationwide, with losses totaling more than $15 million.

"They say keep us on the line, put us on mute, and rush out to get cash or a prepaid debit card," IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino told KTVU. "But don't do it. It is not the IRS making that phone call. We do not demand you pay taxes a certain way, and we certainly don't call you out of the blue."

Maguire hopes that because she could provide account information, police will be able to trace her crime, and she'll be reimbursed.

She took careful notes of the caller's claims.

"He said I violated federal tax regulation and that I willfully withheld information," she recalled.

And even though she had heard of such scams before, when she expressed doubt, he went on the attack.

"He said he could call the cops on me, and that he would put a lean on my house," said Maguire.

Looking back, Maguire sees how empty his threats were, but she's convinced they are scare tactics anyone might fall for.

"He's a dead person. He doesn't have any soul," she concluded, "I just felt myself going under like quick sand, down, down, down."

The case is being investigated by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.

The IRS reiterates that it only contacts people by U.S. Mail. Any unexpected calls, voice messages or emails should be ignored.