Threatening Law Enforcement Phishing Messages or Calls

Over the last few weeks I’ve received threatening phishing messages from time to time on voice mail. My message purported to be from the Treasury Department, but my research suggests they may also reference the IRS or other law enforcement agencies. Recently, the IRS reiterated its warning on telephone scams.

Here’s a transcript of the voice mail I received:

“This message is intended to contact you. My name is Steve Modern and I’m calling regarding an enforcement actions executed by U.S. Treasury intending your serious attention. Ignoring that will be an intentional second attempt to avoid initial appearance before a magistrate judge or a grand jury for a federal criminal offense. My number is 213 401 2878. I repeat 213 401 2878. I advise you to cooperate with us and help us to help you thank you.”

A Google search of this number turned up some information. On a “caller center site” I saw a number of comments from people who’d answered the call or called back.

  • “The caller was identified as unknown name.”
  • “I let him say what he had to say and closer to the end I picked up the phone and told HIM where to go.”
  • “I believe this is a recording as I got no feedback on this one.”
  • “When I called the referenced number…it says “The number you have dialed is not in service” as did the number they called from. The individual has a male, Middle Eastern accent.”
  • “Claimed to be with the department of legal affairs and threatened me with being arrested. I called the number back several times and was hung up on.”
  • “Claimed to be US Treasury Dept of Revenue Collection wanted me to go to our bank to get him a voucher for $4500 for past due real estate taxes. I have reported this to our local police department and have blocked their number.

On another site someone reported a similar call from the same number:

“A gentleman providing the name ‘David Williams’ (which sounds about as fake as it can be) called me this morning around 7:50am. He spoke with an Eastern Indian accent. He called from the phone number (213)401-2878.

He said that I was in big trouble with the IRS and that I would be arrested this morning. Police officers were on their way and would arrest me in 40 minutes, at 8:30am. The only way I could stop the police officers would be to pay $70,000 to the IRS. He said that they would not accept wire transfers or cashier’s checks, only Western Union. He asked me ‘Do you live near a Safeway store?’.

This sounded very suspicious to me. I asked him for my social security number. He could not provide it. He did not allow any further questions and stated I should not question his authority.
I did not send $70k to these scammers. It is now 9:15am and I am still waiting for those police officers. Again, the phone number that called me was 213-401-2878 and they used the name ‘Department Of Legal Affairs And Investigation’.”

I haven’t yet found any record of people falling for this scam, but imagine some may have. This could be of concern for those of us that have senior relatives in their dotage, or with a level of technical illiteracy. It could also be of concern even for a person with average street-wise instincts if these law enforcement scams become more sophisticated in the future.


Even if threatening law enforcement phishing messages or calls pose no threats to the street-wise person, they can still be upsetting. Here are some things I do, or would do, to avoid being disturbed or worse:

  • Use an email system with decent anti-spam filtering
  • Don’t publicly list or give out your mobile phone number (e.g. to businesses that might provide it to third-party marketers) 
  • Annually (in the U.S.) add your number to the Do Not Call registry.
  • Use caller id and don’t answer any calls from unrecognized numbers or people.
If you do get on the phone live with the caller, I’m less sure what to do. One might be afraid to just hang up and risk a visit from irate (real) law enforcement types later. One might feel it necessary to wait until one’s certain it is not a credible call from law enforcement before hanging up. But what if you are not certain. Then what? Is asking the caller to state your social security number (like the gentleman quoted above did) a good idea? Another option would be get them to identify their law enforcement office and then try and call that office yourself…

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