TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Fear is a powerful tool for a scam artist. A lot of people fear the IRS, so scam artists are pretending to be tax collectors as they shake you down for money.
It usually happens with a phone call, a claim you owe a lot of money, and a threat of prison if you fail to pay up.
That's how it went for one Tucson woman but a local store saw through the scam and sent the thief away.
Patricia Lee was driving when she got a frightening call. The man knew her name. He said he was with the IRS.
"And I owe close to eight thousand dollars and basically that if I don't pay that right away I would get arrested right then and there."
Patricia asked us not to show her face or use her real name.
She says the call did not seem right but the threat threw her off balance, and she started to cry. She was right where they wanted her.
"Oh my gosh, yes. After that he just kept pushing."
The fear pushed her past how odd it seemed that the IRS wanted the money in iTunes gift cards.
Patricia says she'd sent about five hundred dollars’ worth but was about to send another 15 hundred. The caller was still on speaker phone when she went to a CVS to buy more gift cards.
But at the CVS they recognized a scam in progress and they made sure that sale did not happen. CVS says it actually trains its workers to recognize scams and keep customers out of trouble.
The IRS says it will never use the phone to tell you you're in tax trouble.
It will contact you by official mail; and real agents will not ask for payment in gift cards. They have become sure a common currency for criminals, that gift cards are a real warning sign.
You can see more IRS advice on staying safe at this link.
Patricia is grateful to the workers at CVS and hopes her experience will help others see through this scam.
"I do consider myself a pretty smart person but I think the shock of things can really make you vulnerable.