Some days I can be a trusting idiot. Today was one of those days.
I was busy scooping the kitty-litter when the phone rang (Honestly, I was in the bathroom scooping my cats’ poop when the phone rang, I’m not making that up). Now I generally don’t bother to answer the home phone because most people use my cell number, so I let it go to voice mail. Also, as I said, I was busy scooping kitty poop.
Once the nastiness of the litter was dealt with, I listened to the message on the machine. A VERY, VERY thick Indian accent said they were from the IRS and asked me to call a phone number. The message said other things, but the accent made it impossible to understand what they were saying apart from the phone number.
Curious (and incredibly foolish), I called the number. I got another man who I will henceforth call Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy, with another thick Indian accent, saying I’d reached the IRS. I told Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy that I’d just gotten a call but didn’t know what it was about. Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy took my name (thankfully the only information I ever gave these, and they already had it per the initial message) and ‘pulled up’ my file.
He said they had evidence that I had defrauded the government on my taxes between the years 2006-2012. They he said they’d tried to reach me for the past two months, and since I hadn’t responded the matter had moved up the chain to the Investigations Department. A lawsuit was going to be taken out against me. I explained this is the first I’d heard of the matter, but Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy said they had evidence that they’d left a note on our door and they’d sent mail to us asking me to deal with the matter.
So at this point, most people should realize that this is a scam. Actually, most people probably don’t bother calling the number back in the first place. But I am a trusting soul. Also, whether they knew it or not, their range of years fit perfectly into my life. In 2006 we moved from one coast to the other. Yet we continued to use our accountant on the other side of the country. He was a good tax accountant and very legit, but I will admit I have entertained worries from time to time that he was too good. Anyway, we eventually switched to an accountant here on this coast (in the same city, even!). I think that was maybe 2013 or so, but it could have been 2012 and I just forgot.
So the thought that my too-good-to-be-true accountant 3,000 miles away between 2006 and 2012 had stepped over a line or two had, in my paranoid mind, enough plausibility about it that it added legitimacy to the scam.
Anyway, I continued to argue that this was the first I’d heard of the matter. I said I was happy to meet with them and work it out. Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy–doing his best impersonation of the creepy German dude in Raiders of the Lost Ark who gets the carvings of the headpiece burned onto his hand in Marion’s bar–said “That time is past.” I then said I hadn’t even seen any evidence that I owed the IRS anything. He said I’d missed my chance to see any documentation, and that I’d now see it when it was presented in court to be used against me.
Yeah, I know. Looking back, the scam-ish nature of the whole thing is pretty obvious.
SCUM-SUCKING SCAMMER GUY: “We’re arresting you without giving you a chance to know what you’ve done wrong.”
ME: “Oh no! You’re the IRS! You can do that!”
At this point I begged to talk to a supervisor. I was transferred to another person with yet another thick, thick Indian accent. I will call him Other Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy. At this point, a part of me wondered if the entire IRS was populated by former Bombay call center employees. Other Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy toed the party line. I was bad. I owed money. I was going to be taken to court.
If I paid the back taxes within the next one or two hours, then I could avoid court.
And yet I STILL didn’t realize it was a scam. Luckily, I didn’t give them any information or money or anything. Other Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy asked if I could come up with the money within two hours. I half-laughed/half-screamed back that it was impossible. Other Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy said that it would be Court for me. He advised me to call my lawyer.
I went back to the basic truth with Other Scum-Sucking Scammer Guy: this is the first I’ve heard of this, I’ll happily work with the IRS on this, please be reasonable. He held firm. I again asked to see the evidence that I’d committed fraud. He again said no way.
Then I went ahead and said that I had no way of even knowing that this wasn’t a scam. That sent him off, and he said I’d just committed a Federal offense by calling him a liar or some such. Looking back, it seems pretty silly, but in the heat of the moment, I was in full “Oh My God I’m Going to Jail!” mode. He eventually said the call was over, I was going to jail, and I should wait for an officer to come to my house to arrest me within the next hour.
I FREAKED out and did what any self-respecting, level-headed man should do under the circumstances. I called my wife. She told me to call the police. Said it sounded like a scam. After a serious, body-shaking, headache-blaring, vocal chords-straining scream of pure Freakingoutism, I called the police. He said it was a scam. Then my wife sent me links that said it was a scam. Including this one:
Which is exactly what happened to me.
It was a scam. I wasn’t going to jail. I didn’t owe back taxes. My too-good-to-be-true accountant from years before was simply good. Not too good.
What have I learned from all this? Well first off, ignore voice messages that come when I’m scooping the litter box. Second, the IRS does not call you and tell you to pay fines then and there over the phone. Third, I can be ridiculously gullible. But then, I already knew that last one.
The page on IRS.gov says that in rare cases, the scammers will actually send out someone to the house after the call pretending to be law enforcement, along with someone pretending to be an agent. These two will claim that you are going to jail unless you can pay the fine right there on your doorstep.
Boy do I hope they come…