Scam artists claim to be from government agencies

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Melissa Lopez's phone rang one day recently. She answered. It was a robocall with this message: "...an arrest warrant has been filed under your name by Internal Revenue Service. To resolve this case please call us back immediately on our direct number..."

"He didn't give his name. He said this is the IRS calling and if you didn't take this call you'll be arrested in 24 hours," Lopez says

Lopez is just one of our viewers who've received that phone call in recent weeks. It seems posing as the IRS or the Social Security Administration is a popular ploy being used by con artists.

"Essentially the scam artist is trying to put a little bit of fear, hoping that you might cough up your personal information as a result of the contact," says Tim Johnston of the Better Business Bureau.

The truth is no governmental agency operates like this. If the IRS, Social Security or Medicare had an issue with you they'd contact you by mail.

And, Johnston says, "If the investigative authority happens to be the local sheriff or police department, they'll be the ones reaching out to you, not some governmental agency."

No matter how well-prepared and guarded you may think you are, it's unwise to let the contact go any further. Johnston says the scam artists are skilled at what they do.

"They may say confirm your Social Security number. They may already have bits and pieces of it because that's information that's possibly out there, but they're looking to get everything from you," he says. "That way they can do identity theft. So you want to make sure you're not engaging with these people. So those individuals you've talked to, if they've hung up on them that's really the best thing to do."

And that's almost what Melissa did.

"Basically--I don't know if I can say this on TV."

"We can bleep it," I told her.

"I told them to 'eat **** and die' and hung up on them."