Tough-talking grandma takes on would-be IRS scammer
Officers say phone scams are up in Washoe County, and you should be on the lookout.
Tami Ranvier got a call and refused to be a victim. Instead, she unleashed her secret weapon -- her mother.
Ranvier got a call in early December. "They said it was the IRS," she recounted. "I knew it was a scam from the get-go."
She handed the phone to her mother, Rana, who worked for years as a payroll and account specialist. Rana Ranvier is a feisty redhead who doesn't take guff from anyone.
"I thought ok, this is going to be fun," she said.
The man on the phone was direct - he said he was with the IRS and needed money for back-taxes.
"The gentleman's name was Paul Anderson and he said he was an officer and that I owed the IRS over $7,000," Tana said.
Tana is on disability and has no job, so she knew she didn't owe the IRS money.
"Wait a minute, I couldn't owe that kind of money, I'm on disability. How could I owe that when I barely make that on disability?" Tana asked him.
The man on the phone also said she had a warrant for her arrest. He peppered Tana with questions, looking for her to verify her personal information, like her address and Social Security Number. Tana wasn't falling for the trick and never gave up her information.
Instead, she turned the tables and asked the man to verify her information.
"Don't you have my file with you?" Tana said. "He said 'I need you to verify your address.' I said, 'How about you verify your address with me.'"
Tana didn't back down.
"His tone at first was, I've got you and I'm going to get you, until I said 'What's my social security number?' And then his tone changed, like 'Oh my God I just got caught,'" Tana said.
This would-be criminal didn't stand a chance against her. As soon as Tana threatened to verify the warrant with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office, the man hung up the phone.
"I got him. He was out to get me and I got him in return and that's what makes it all worthwhile," Tana said.
People can be more vulnerable during the holidays, and criminals will take advantage. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office and Reno Police said residents have been receiving more calls from people looking to scam them out of money.
"It seems like this year, they have been very prolific in the last 6-7 weeks," said Bob Harmon, the Washoe County Sheriff's Office Spokesman.
Harmon said if you've been a victim, call your local law enforcement office. But he said it's a good idea to notify police or deputies even if you received a suspicious call. Officers would like to know what kind of scams may be happening in our community.
"Awareness is such a key for fighting this type of scam," Harmon said.
Officers say never give out your personal information to anyone who calls you. The sheriff's office said it will never ask for payment over the phone or negotiate for payment in lieu of an arrest.
The IRS will never demand immediate payment or call you about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. It will never ask for a credit or debit card over the phone. It will also never threaten to bring in local police to have you arrested for not paying.
"For the IRS scams, you can go to their websites, they actually have connections with the FTC and the Department of Treasury that you can contact," Harmon said.
You can report an IRS telephone scam to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or at TIGTA.gov. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Be sure to include "IRS Telephone Scam" in the comments of the complaint.
For more information on IRS scams and how to avoid becoming a victim, go to irs.gov/newsroom/taxpayer-guide-to-identity-theft
Here are two examples of phone scams Washoe County residents received in 2014 and 2015: