Originally posted on March 2014
Imagine that you’re minding your own business when you get a phone call from an unrecognized number. Reluctantly, you answer.
The man on the other end of the line tells you he’s with the IRS. He bluntly states that you attempted to defraud the IRS, and that the government will now be taking legal action against you, including the issuing of a warrant within the hour.
You’re frightened, and for good reason: the call is as authentic as it gets. The man sounds professional and asks professional questions. He tells you about the investigation with great detail. He uses stern language. “Do not interrupt me while I speak. Ask your questions after I’m finished,” he says, before listing out your wrongdoings.
He also has other information to add to his authenticity, such as the last four digits of your social security number and your home address.
Still frightened, you him ask how much you owe. He says approximately $5,100. Sensing your fear, he then makes his push. He states that you have to pay this amount within the hour via money order or pre-paid debit card. Failure to comply will result in your arrest.
At this point, you come to your senses. You realize that the IRS would never ask for money over the phone (especially via money order or pre-paid debit card). Convinced that the call’s a scam, you then hang up.
Unfortunately, many other Americans this tax season did not hang up. Indeed, the Inspector General for Tax Administration claims that thousands have fallen victim to this scam over the past few months, and that these victims have collectively lost more than a million dollars.
Like other scammers we’ve told you about in this blog, these con artists fall back on similar psychological triggers to scare people into giving them money.
First, they attempt to appear like legitimate authority figures, because people naturally comply with authority. Then they pressure you, hoping you’ll comply while you’re scared and not thinking clearly.
1. Remember that the IRS sends their official correspondence through the mail. They may only try to contact you by phone if they cannot reach you by mail.
2. Remember that the IRS will also not demand immediate payment by debit card, credit card or wire transfer over the phone.
3. Remember that both of the above rules also apply to most other government agencies.
4. Remember that if you’re ever in a situation where a supposed authority figure is threatening you and making immediate demands over the phone, you should write down his or her accusations and demands, politely get his or her contact information, stop the call, and contact your attorney.
Please share this information with your friends and loved ones, because it could save them thousands of dollars and a lot of stress.
Good luck with the rest of tax season.
The Shea Aiello Team,