Chesapeake man loses thousands in IRS scam

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A Chesapeake man says he was the victim of an IRS scam.  Haripal Channa is telling his story in hopes of protecting others from falling prey.

“I believe that this was my mistake,” said Channa.

The mistake for Channa started when he picked up the phone Wednesday afternoon. The caller on the other end said he was from the IRS and Channa owed $6,500.  The alleged agent threatened if he didn’t pay up he would be in trouble with police.

“In no time they would come and arrest me,” Channa added.

Channa spent the next five hours on the phone with the caller.  The alleged IRS agent made him stop by Best Buy, Food Lion, Rite Aid and CVS.  At every stop Channa bought gift cards to help pay off the debt.

“From 12:30 to 5:15 he was harassed over the phone,” said daughter Gulshen Channa.  “They wouldn’t let him hang up the phone and call anybody.  He was just so scared.”

Channa learned later it was all a scam.  His money was gone.

“They have no humanity,” Gulshen Channa added.  “They call random people every day and take money out of them.”

The IRS says since 2013 more than $40 million has been stolen in similar scams.  IRS officials say they do call from time to time, but that’s only after you have received several notices in the mail.

“One of the telltale signs of a scam is when they become belligerent,” said IRS spokesman Richard Sanford.  “We never threaten arrest.”

IRS officials say they would never ask for money over the phone and certainly not gift cards.

“If you have not been receiving mail notices, that’s the biggest red flag that’s a scam call,” Sanford added.

The Channa family knows it was a costly mistake that can happen to anyone.

“The money is gone,” Gulshen Channa said.  “We know we aren’t going to get the money, but we really hope at least one person gets caught and it doesn’t happen to anybody else.”

IRS officials say if you’re not sure if the caller is from the agency, ask for the agent’s badge number.  You can then call 800-829-1040 to see if the badge is legit.