Criminals work hard to try and get your money.

They're always thinking of new ways to convince you to give them personal information. Not even our office is immune.

Summit County Prosecutor's Office employees have received calls from scammers. Just recently, one of our assistant prosecutors got a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. He knew right away it was a scam, but wanted to try to learn more about how the scammers try to get your money. What he found was very interesting and could help protect you.

The call started off with the scammer, in a thick accent, threatening to have the person arrested for tax evasion for not paying an outstanding IRS bill. Our assistant prosecutor played along to see how far the scammer would go. The scammer claimed the bill totaled $2985.55 but after some negotiating determined a payment of $2,000 was enough to pay the debt.

The call was then "transferred" to another department, answered by a woman who also had a thick, possibly Indian, accent. She told our assistant prosecutor that he could pay the outstanding debt through a local drug store. Our assistant prosecutor played along, and made it sound like he drove to the store. The woman gave several instructions; including making sure no one else knew what was going on. She said telling someone else would void the agreement. The woman then asked our assistant prosecutor to purchase iTunes gift cards for the full $2,000 and to tell her the activation numbers on the back of the card.

At this point, our assistant prosecutor decided he had enough fun and hung up. But he uncovered some very important information. Remember, the IRS will never call someone out of the blue, saying they could be arrested for an unpaid bill. Plus, you cannot pay the IRS, or anyone else, with iTunes gift cards. They can't eliminate your debt, no matter how many Justin Bieber songs they buy!

And finally, our assistant prosecutor also heard a lot of background noise during the call and heard what he thought were more people on the phone in the room telling others the exact same thing.

I am also not immune to getting these calls. A message left on my home answering machine was from a caller claiming to be with the IRS who said there was a warrant out for my arrest because I owed back taxes and that I needed to call back immediately. I had my chief investigator return the call to find out more. My chief investigator played along for a while, then told the potential scammer who he really was. The scammer responded with a few expletives and hung up.

Unfortunately people continue to fall for this scam. There are ways to protect your money. If your phone rings with a number you do not recognize, don't' answer it! By answering the call, you are put on what's called a "sucker list." This is a list of phone numbers which scammers know are active. They'll keep calling the number, or sell the list to other scammers. There are also apps you can download which uses caller ID and community reports to automatically flag phone numbers that are known to be or believed to be scams and either block them or warn you. Those apps include Truecaller, Mr. Number, Privacy Star, NoMoRobo, and Calls Blacklist which can block calls from suspected scammers. Both are free and are available at the App Store or Google Play.

We hope a little knowledge will go a long way in keeping you safe.