TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – If you’ve gotten a call recently from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, chances are you’ve been targeted by a scammer.

Countrywide, the problem is more serious than you might think.

Federal officials have now declared the IRS telephone scam has reached “epidemic” proportions, and numerous complaints in Idaho alone have been filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

“With the tax season in full swing, it’s especially critical for Idaho consumers to be aware of this scam and the intent of criminals to take people’s hard-earned money,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in a prepared statement. “Based on the volume of complaints, the IRS scam is clearly the top concern in my office and the impact these calls are having on consumers is significant.”

Scammers for years have tried to defraud consumers by claiming they’re calling from the IRS or the U.S. Department of Treasury. Last month, the Treasury Department reported receiving about 896,000 contacts from consumers about the IRS scam since October 2013, according to the news release by Wasden’s office. Treasury officials also say they are aware of more than 5,000 victims reporting losses of more than $26.5 million.

According to the Attorney General, criminals involved in this fraud typically:

  • Utilize an automated robocall machine
  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the call originates with an IRS office
  • Aggressively demand immediate payment to avoid criminal charges or arrest
  • Send bogus emails to support their fraud

One way to know you’ve been targeted by scammers: IRS agents who are assigned to cases of unpaid taxes reach out to taxpayers via mail, not the telephone.

“If someone calls impersonating an IRS agent and demanding payment with a debit card, money order or wire transfer to satisfy a tax debt, the best course of action is simply hanging up the phone,” Wasden said.

For tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of the telemarketing scam, visit the Attorney General or IRS websites.