HELENA – Each year, hundreds of Montanans report receiving a phone message that sounds like an urgent tax issue. But state investigators say the calls are really scams, and the callers are posing as government employees.

The Montana Office of Consumer Protection released audio of one of the calls.

“This is Jimmy Carter from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration,” the voice said. “This call is to notify you about a legal case which has been filed against your name and your physical address.”

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Regardless of what agency the caller claims to be from, this type of message is known as an “IRS scam.” The callers often use technology to “spoof” caller ID systems, making the call appear to come from a legitimate phone number.

OCP investigator Marcus Meyer said the scammers’ goal is to get someone to call them back.

“Once they return the call, then they receive some sort of spiel that tells them that they owe back taxes, and that they need to make a payment immediately,” he said.

He said no government agency would ever make that type of call.

“The IRS is not going to contact you over the phone,” he said. “Everything that you will receive from the IRS will be in writing. It’s never going to be a life-or-death situation that if you don’t pay today you will go to jail or you will have a lawsuit filed against you.”

Meyer said you should always be skeptical if someone wants immediate payment, especially through a prepaid debit card or other “fast cash” option.

“If you get those prerecorded calls, the best thing to do is to delete the message and not to return that call,” he said. “Once you interact with them, then they’re going to try to gain your trust and create that situation where they’re trying to get that fast payment.”

OCP received more than 700 calls about the IRS scam last year, making it one of the most common single scams reported to the agency.

If you have questions about the IRS scam or other scams, you can contact the Office of Consumer Protection at (406) 444-4500. Information is also available on the agency’s website.