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Tax Season Kicks Off With IRS Phone Scam Warning

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[File photo] [File photo]
Washington D.C. -

Tax filing season began Tuesday, with a warning from the IRS.

The scam calls start with a threat from someone claiming to be from the IRS demanding money. "You need to pay just $1,989.44," a voice on the phone says.

Ten to twelve thousand calls are reported every week. Among those receiving one -- CBS News Justice Correspondent Jeff Pegues.

Pegues asked why the caller didn't ask him to send a check directly to the IRS.

"At this point in time you need to complete the procedure outside of the courthouse, that is the reason," the scammer said.

"As soon as they get you on the telephone, they threaten you, if you don't pay us money, you're going to go to jail," Pegues explained.

Tim Camus is with the Treasury Department. He's featured in a new PSA released Tuesday warning about the fraud.

"The safest thing to do so you don't get caught up in it is just hang up the telephone," Camus says.

The Treasury Department has received nearly 900,000 reports of IRS scam calls since October of 2013. At least 5,000 victims have paid out more than $26.5 million dollars.

"They don't care about anything other than trying to intimidate you into paying them money."

One tip off is the phone call itself. If you actually do owe money, the IRS will contact you by mail first.

Pegues confronted his scammer.

"I think you're a scam artist and we're going to track you down and have you arrested," Pegues said to the caller, who promptly hung up the phone.

Catching the bad guys is not easy. Many of these calls are coming from overseas. The Treasury Department was able to point to just one recent arrest.

Victims are often told to wire money via Western Union or MoneyGram. Don't do it.

© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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