By the Way

Scam alert: A reporter's scary call from people claiming to be IRS

Robin Fitzgerald

rfitzgerald@sunherald.com

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My recent telephone conversation with two scammers scared me spitless.

I can now understand how some people, especially the elderly, fall prey to the intimidation tactics of con artists.

I’d received a voice-mail message saying the call was my final notice to contact the IRS regarding a serious tax problem.

I’d just filed my taxes. It made me nervous. I returned the call.

The first man identified himself as an IRS agent. He gave me his name and badge number. I grabbed my pen and notebook and started taking notes. In a fast, loud and intimidating voice, he told me the IRS had filed a lawsuit against me for income tax evasion for the 2007 to 2014 tax years.

He said I’d been targeted in a random audit. And I owe $5,686 for underpayment of taxes.

He asked if I had made miscalculations or had tried to cheat the government. I told him I don’t cheat on my taxes. There had to be a big mistake.

I asked if he could notify me in writing. He said it was too late.

I asked if I could go to my local IRS office to discuss it. He said no, not at this time. And he told me to quit interrupting him.

He asked if I planned to get an attorney or what my intentions were.

I played along and said I didn’t know what to do. He offered to transfer me to a U.S. Treasury agent.

That man was even more intimidating. He rattled off legal terms, a federal statute and the penalties for conviction. Prison, a $75,000 fine. And, oh, I’d lose my driver’s license, too.

He asked if I planned to get an attorney.

I told him I just didn’t know what to do. He said they could work out a deal. Could I go to my bank and withdraw the money? And take it to a local IRS office?

I told him no.

He gave me a closing spiel about how I will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“After I hang up,” he said, “I’m calling your local sheriff’s office for a warrant for your arrest. God bless you.”

I didn’t “God bless” him back. I hung up.

I saw clues of a scam early on and played along, but a part of me was afraid. Very afraid. I don’t scare easily.

I’ve always heard the IRS contacts you in writing if there’s a problem. True that.

Also, the IRS will never ask you to withdraw a load of cash from your bank and take it somewhere.

And both men spoke with foreign-sounding accents. They didn’t speak English well and stumbled over some of the legal words they spouted off in authoritative voices.

I didn’t fall for their tactics.

But to be on the safe side, I advised my boss. What if I were to be arrested?

And I left a message for an attorney and a federal agent. The latter assured me it was a scam. He told me to go online to irs.gov and file a complaint. I did and included the telephone number used, the names given, all the dirty details.

So who’s the sucker now, con men?

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