I don’t get some people.
Imagine devoting your life’s work and precious time on this earth to scamming people out of their money. How do those people sleep at night? What does their mother think about their career choice?
Like I said, I don’t get people. Don’t even get me started on the Ray Rice (aka wife-beater and all-around thug) elevator incident.
This rant is about a threatening phone message I picked up today, allegedly from our friends at the IRS.
I had heard about this scam on the news, but even if I hadn’t, the message reeked with no-good-ed-ness. An automaton voice said,
“Return this call the very second you receive this message. I need you, or your retained attorney of record, to return the call. The issue at hand is extremely time-sensitive. I am Officer Julie Smith from the Internal Revenue Service and the hotline to my division is 415-251-6983. Don’t disregard this message and do return the call before we take any action against you. Good-bye and take care.”
First of all, since when did IRS agents start saying “take care” when they threaten action against a taxpayer?
Secondly, I know IRS agents are stiff, but they have become androids too? (My apologies to any non-stiff IRS agents out there.)
Smelling a rat, I Googled the phone number, and of course, it popped up as a scam on several message boards. One person who commented on the board said he called the number back 25 times in one day just to hassle the scammer! I’d like to meet that guy and shake his hand. You gotta love his pluck.
What troubles me most about this scam is there are many people who might fall for it, for example, my 91-year-old dad. A call like that would scare the bejesus out of him and I could see him immediately calling the number back and forking over money. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, an estimated $5 million has been lost to these scams. Tragic.
Picture this scene:
A scammer comes home from a hard day at the office and their June Cleaver-ish wife asks, “How was your day, dear?”
“Excellent! I bilked another sap out of his life savings.”
This information is hot off the IRS website:
Characteristics of this scam include:
Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
I will add here, the IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by phone ~ they always send written correspondence first.
This was my public service announcement of the day. Oh and yes, I did file a report to the FTC.
Lynne Ayers said:
We’ve got an email version of this circulating – message from Revenue Canada saying we have a refund, just contact etc etc etc. I’ve received it at least three times.
Damn scammers. Don’t you wonder how they get our email addresses?
Lynne Ayers said:
Yes, it’s scary how vulnerable we are.
Kate Johnston said:
Terrible terrible people! I got that call a few times, and I simply assumed they had the wrong number b/c I pay my taxes! Haha. But, you’re right, Robin, the message is really threatening, and I can totally understand how some people might get sucked in if they are the least bit uncertain of their affairs. (Financial affairs, that is!)
The IRS calls about romantic affairs too?
Kate Johnston said:
Yes, it’s the latest scam.
Laughed out loud again.
Vanessa-Jane Chapman said:
You only have to look at how many urban legends are circulated around to see how easily people fall for things, and there are always going to be people ready to take advantage of that. The scammers can come at you from anywhere can’t they – phone, email, door-to-door, street corners, you have to keep your wits about you all the time! Nice to see you back blogging again 🙂
We were were in London a few years ago and enjoyed a pint (or two) at a corner pub. There were signs everywhere saying “Beware of Dirty Bastard Pickpockets.” The signs made me laugh but I watched for the Artful Dodger around every corner. I guess there have been scammers around since forever. Today’s form is just more technological.
Are you officially back to blogging or are you waiting to find out about your dissertation? Like I said on your blog, I’m still in and out. Nice chatting with you!
Dennis Langley said:
It never ceases to amaze me how bold some of these people can be. I would love to listen in when they call and actual IRS agent. 😉
Ha! I bet that happens.
the eternal traveller said:
The trouble is that these people are clever and they sound so convincing. It’s easy to understand how they can catch people out. I will never understand how someone could even begin to think this behaviour is okay.
I want to know where their mother is. Shameful behavior. My motto is, if it would make my mother upset or embarrassed, I don’t do it.
I was getting those “one ring calls” for about three weeks and it annoyed the crap out of me, so I held onto my phone one day and answered it as soon as it rang. There was no voice on the other end but I left the phone off the hook for about three hours so they would have to pay the toll. They never rang me again.
I don’t understand scammers either. I changed the phone settings for my parents-in-law (no messages) because they were constantly getting calls from scammers and one day I found my father-in-law on the phone holding his credit card so i got the phone off him and spoke to the person who was supposedly selling him something and told him to get lost. They’re both elderly and ill (my mother-in-law has dementia) and it’s a real struggle trying to help them keep some kind of independence while also keeping them safe.
Thank goodness you caught your father-in-law on the phone before it was late! With my aging parents, and mom with dementia, I now know why it is so easy to con money from our elders.
We should swap tips on handling the dementia. Has she had it long? Does your father-in-law take care of her? My dad is struggling but refuses to turn over her care to anyone else. I love his devotion, but I think the toll it is taking on him is shortening his life.
He takes care of her, but he has had a stroke and recently had bowel cancer. She is not completely gone yet and has been on the cusp for about three years. Some days are much better than others. I cook for them and drive them to appointments etc. She used to love cooking but now burns everything so we have to be really careful of that. I think it’s depressing for her sometimes, but we go shopping every week where I park in exactly the same place and we visit exactly the same shops in exactly the same order! This routine is really good for her.
What a good daughter-in-law you are. My mom set their kitchen on fire about three years ago. She forgot she was cooking taco meat on the stove and the smoke damage was awful. Not long after that, she stopped cooking. Not because of the fire but because she forgot how or forgot she needed to. They are in an assisted living place now and fortunately, they don’t allow anything that might start a fire.
Perfecting Motherhood said:
I don’t have a landline anymore and I haven’t received one of those calls on my cell phone yet. However, I keep receiving calls from two different numbers, one in Texas and one in Anaheim, CA that tell you someone from jail is making a collect call and I have to accept the call. Apparently you can opt out of that call but that’s if you take the call live and push some buttons. Right, I’ll let it go to voicemail, thank you.
Those calls were about you bailing ME out of jail. Some blogging friend you are!
I just don’t understand how some (I don’t mean you!) people can be so mean and selfish . . . I could never scam money from ANYONE!
Perfecting Motherhood said:
American free enterprise at work… Glad to hear someone else bailed you out. 🙂
They got another friend of mine too, also in Cali. She called the number and harassed them. 😊
Good for her. Did she talk to a live person? I was too chicken to call them back.
It scares me how easy prey the seniors are, makes me very angry how heartless these schemers are. Good post, wise friend.
It makes me angry too. My dad would have fallen for it, honest tax payer that he is. Seniors are easy prey for the underbelly scum of the criminal world.
It’s a scary world out there! Thanks for the tip 🙂
What a dreadful thing to be happening, especially, as you say Robin, for the vulnerable.
And my dad is one of the vulnerable. His mind is in pretty good shape, but he gets addled. A fake phone call from the IRS would have unnerved him. Not wanting to cheat the IRS, he would have paid up, pronto.
Jilanne Hoffmann said:
Yes, I feel for older individuals (or exhausted new mothers–my niece fell for a phone scam after not sleeping well for months and had to cancel a credit card). How about if we all call the same number and blow whistles in their ears?
Excellent idea! How about one of those obnoxious air horns?
So worrying—I feel for you and your dad.
I warned Dad about the scam so he doesn’t fall for it. He is a smart man, but this scamming thing is beyond what he might watch out for.
I have friends who have been in similar situations—so sad that we must be vigilante for them, but thank god we can be.
Exactly. Our parents were our advocates/protectors when we were young, now it is our turn to advocate/protect them in their dotage.
Sounds like an interesting adventure for the day.
Especially liked the “take care” at the end of their message. That scam was going on around here for a while, too. Law enforcement asked people to also notify the FBI.
The newest one here is the “kidnapping”. There’s a call with a woman screaming in the back and the voice says it’s daughter/wife….They want money wired and try to keep you on phone so you can’t check with family.
Oh, and last week there’s the “one ring call” scam. You get a call which rings once – and some people just can’t ignore that and have to call back saying someone from this number tried to call me – what about? Meanwhile that call is charging tons of money per minute while they shuffle around/put you on hold/ chat.
Numbers are spoofed – but usually “unknown” and from out of area code.
Another scam every day…easy money. So many come from outside the country.
I don’t answer the phone unless the number is known….and am really bad about not carrying the phone around anyway. People know if it’s important either call back and maybe I’l hear it or leave a message…and it better not be one asking for money or saying “Please help aunt/cousin/sister/grandmother…, I’m in jail and need bail money and please don’t tell my parents” (last year’s scam). Fat chance with that one
I had three one right calls today! I hadn’t heard of that one. Like you, I don’t answer unless I recognize the number. Hardly anyone I know calls the house phone anymore. It is all solicitors, politicos, and fake IRS agents!
I once got a totally believable email from a work friend saying she was in Amsterdam and that her purse was stolen. She asked me to wire her money. Seemed a little suspect seeing that she was sitting in the office next door to me.
Carrie Rubin said:
Good for you for filing a complaint. Scammers must be heartless. Some of them are so convincing you can see how people could fall for them.
Thanks for blogging about this.
On a side note, I hadn’t checked my spam folder for a long time. It was loaded! What is the deal? How do they profit from it? Like I am suddenly spurred to buy Viagra because they spammed me? Oh brother.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Let's CUT the Crap! said:
Thank you for your public service announcement to saving the world…knocking some sense into people on the go and helping to save them from these crooks and scammers. There are so many now, and people are so busy and taken off guard, these guy rake in their dough. 😦
Easy Peasy. What a shame.
Think of the good scammer could do in the world if they redirected their negative energies into a noble occupation. You know they must be smart people to be able to pull off such elaborate, yet evil, schemes.
Let's CUT the Crap! said:
I was just deleted> Grr.
Okay shortened version of comment. Maybe you’d like to take a boo at a Canadian writer’s book. His name id Will Ferguson and the particular book I want to draw to your attention is ‘419’.
Hope you have a chance to check it out and you enjoy it. Talk later about it? Kind of a hard-to know-what-side-to-take. Intriguing. I promise. >3
Interesting. I have book group tonight and will suggest the book as a selection for us this new book group session. Thanks, Tess!
Let's CUT the Crap! said:
I forgot to mention it is NOT non-fiction, it’s a novel but an eye-opener. Don’t want to say anymore to spoil your reading pleasure.