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Inside an IRS Imposter Scam

I received two phone calls today, both automated messages claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service and that the U.S. agency was filing a lawsuit against me. Here’s the message that was left on my voicemail:

“Hello, this call is officially a final notice from IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuit against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately our department number.”

I knew this had to be a scam. In fact, the first entry on our list of the top tax scams of 2016 is phone scams, where criminals impersonate IRS agents and threaten arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. These schemes increase drastically in frequency in the months surrounding the annual filing deadline, as many rush to get their returns filed.

My experience could be a cautionary tale for your clients, although it wasn’t as scary and threatening as you might think.

I decided to call their “department” number immediately—from a different phone of course. A man answered, and with an Indian accent asked for my first and last name.

“This is Officer Richard Baker from the audit and commission department of the Internal Revenue Service from Brooklyn, New York,” he said.

I gave him a name; he then asked me to wait while his system loaded my information. He then asked for the number at which I was contacted…more waiting. He then asked for my zip code, and I expressed some consternation.

“Yes, of course. I’m very very sorry for your… The concern is such that the phone call that you received was a system-generated phone call, and my system needs this input because it needs to let me know what your case is all about,” he said.

“I just gave you my name, so shouldn’t that be enough to locate the case?”

I again said I did not want to give out my zip code, and the man did not push any further.

“Well, it is completely your decision,” he said.

“So that’s it?”

“Not an issue, yes. Thank you, and have a great day. Good bye.”

After all the trouble the Brooklyn-based scammer went through to get me to call them back, I was struck by the soft sell. He never got to the point of asking for my Social Security number or credit card information. 

When you think of these scammers, you tend to think of them as aggressive, pushy salesmen that’ll do anything to deceive you and get your information. But that was not my experience. At the slight hint of my hesitation, this man was apologizing and telling me to have a nice day.  

While the scam stopped there, I reported the calls to the Federal Trade Commission and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, as should your clients if they fall victim.

Something good to know: “The IRS won’t call out of the blue to ask for payment, won’t demand a specific form of payment, and won’t leave a message threatening to sue you if you don’t pay right away,” the FTC says. 

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