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Fighting phone scammers; their tricks and where they may be calling from

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They call you threatening criminal charges unless you pay up, and it can be tough to avoid them.

Police say scammers falsely claiming to be from the IRS or law enforcement are still a big problem.

But a new tool from the Better Business Bureau may help you fight back. It reveals how crooks trick people into taking their calls and where they may be calling from.

"Kind of got suspicious"

When Michael Demidenko hears his phone's bluesy ringtone, he gets picky.

"Most of the advertising calls that I get are 1-877 or 1-866. I usually avoid those," Demidenko said. "But typically if it's from Oregon and Washington you think it's related to something."

Recently, he received an odd voicemail from a number with a Washington area code. It said, in part:

"You will be taken under custody by the local cops as there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment. We would request that you get back to us so that we can discuss about this case before taking any legal action against you."

"When I called them," Demidenko said, "they started saying they were from the IRS and they were an auditor."

It didn't take long for him to figure out it was a scam.

"He started saying that I couldn't get off the phone," Demidenko said. "That's when I kind of got suspicious."

But others find out too late, shelling out big bucks to crooks.

The federal government says since 2013 more than 5,000 Americans lost nearly $27 million as a result of IRS call scams alone.

"If you see something local you probably feel more apt to actually answer," Michelle Shaffer, Oregon market place manager for the Better Business Bureau (BBB), told KATU.

The group is fighting back against criminals with a new website called Scam Tracker. So far it's gathered more than 40,000 reports from across the country.

"The number one scam this past year was the IRS telephone scam," Shaffer explained.

She said most scammers don't tell would-be victims where they're calling from. But of those that do, when targeting people in Oregon, many like to claim they're local.

"The number one location was Oregon," Shaffer said. "31 percent of these scammers were claiming, maybe they were, but they were identifying themselves as Oregonians, as living in Oregon."

People who get calls here say the scammers also like to claim they're from California, New York, Florida and New Jersey.

Of course, the crooks could be calling from anywhere using spoof phone numbers to hide their true location.

Oregon's Department of Justice told KATU some scammers can even appear via caller ID to be calling from local police departments.

But as Scam Tracker keeps running, Shaffer hopes they'll only be able to hide for so long.

"If I was contacted by a telephone number that seemed suspicious to me I can type that telephone number in Scam Tracker and see if there's a record of that number," Shaffer said. "And that way I know, 'Oh, someone's already reported this as a scam.'"

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