BOISE, Idaho – A Meridian woman is speaking out after falling prey to a popular IRS phone scam that cost her $5,987. Motoko Chiba, a single mother of two, was told if she didn’t pay the money that day she would be put in jail for seven years.
“It was like a torture, almost like somebody putting the bullet on your head and do it, do it, do it,” said Chiba. “Otherwise you lose the house, you lose car, you lose the kids, you lose everything.”
The Idaho Attorney General's Office believes Chiba's case is part of a sophisticated IRS impersonation scam so widespread federal officials estimate it's cost Americans more than $36 million.
“The theme is very similar, it’s the IRS, you’re in trouble with them because you haven’t paid, and if you don’t pay right now you’re going to get arrested,” said Brett DeLange, chief of the Consumer Protection Division at the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. “It’s every part of the state from Sandpoint to Soda Springs.”
Chiba said she was terrified by the call, so she did as she was told. First withdrawing the $5,987 in cash from the bank. Then spending every last penny on iTunes and Toys R Us gift cards and painstakingly reading out the serial number of every gift card to the voice on the other end of the phone.
“I should know better. But by the time my head was already frozen, and scared and feared because they threatened about my kids and all that,” said Chiba.
After the caller hung up, Chiba called her fiance who filled her in on the scam.
“I was crying, bawling and he was upset and yelling,” said Chiba.
She reported the incident to police, but they told that because these criminals are overseas it's near impossible to make any arrests.
“Once the money’s gone it’s gone, there’s no way to get it back,” said DeLange. “It can happen to you and it can happen to any one of us.”
Although Chiba won’t get her own money back she hopes her story will help others from falling prey.
“This shame and a mistake can help other people you know, they’ll be better. I’d be grateful that I can help people by my mistake so that nobody go through the same hell I went through,” said Chiba.
The AG’s office says the IRS will never call about money owed, that will all be handled through the mail. If you do receive a call from someone saying they are the IRS, hang up immediately and do not call back.
(© 2016 KTVB)