Sunday, February 1, 2015

This IRS is (not) calling me

A few months back, my wife called me to relate that she had received a phone call from someone purporting to be the IRS who engaged her and ultimately threatened that she would be arrested if she did not cooperate.  This caller was very convincing and left my wife upset by the exchange as she related to me that the caller had informed her that she would be arrested within the hour.  This was the last thing I needed to hear at the labor camp (also known as my place of gainful employment).  I managed to calm her down a bit... after all, I've been around the track enough and watched enough episodes of "Cops" to know that it is never the wife that they take, its always the male head of household that they drag out usually clad in his boxer shorts and since we've always filed a joint return this could only mean that I should make sure that I'm always wearing clean boxers.  As anticipated, my wife was still around when I got home from work and no cops so far.

Thankfully, my wife is beginning to adopt my practice of not answering the phone unless you know who's calling - this alleviates many problems from the get-go.  It's amazing how many of these undesired callers hang up when our antiquated answering machine picks up with its mechanical 1980's Radio Shack voice carefully enunciating, "Please leave a message".  For all those who are tentative about letting your answering machine pick up - get over it... trust me, your friends and those people you really want to talk to will leave a message.

Apparently, the old IRS scam continues to be alive and well and sure enough just this past week, we received another call from the IRS.  This time instead of a live caller, the "IRS" was using a "robo-call" system to automate the scam and left a message which was recorded by our answering machine and which I have posted for amusement purposes.  Unfortunately, these scams prey on the trusting and conscientious so I am going to pick apart some of elements of this call.

1.  We've been trying to reach you... These scams stress the finality of the contact with the intention of motivating the recipient to take action now.  The reality is that for most of us the IRS should not be having any trouble finding us.  Yes, I file a tax report every year and provide my address and contact information.  Moreover, I have taxes withheld from my paycheck every 2 weeks so the IRS certainly should be able to figure out where I work.  Bottom line, considering the resources of the IRS they should have absolutely no problem finding me.

2.  The IRS is filing a lawsuit... blah, blah... I suspect that if the IRS thought that I owed them money, they wouldn't be providing a refund each year.

3.  202 area code... Oh, you're from Washington, DC?  Well golly, you must be for real (let me finish chewing my straw and climb back on my turnip truck).  Reality check folks... any yahoo can get a "202" phone number these days... you can easily sign up for one on Google Voice or just about any cell provider.  For the record, this scam directed victims to call 2022396020.  I googled this number and in scanning a couple of results quickly spotted similar reports reflecting that this is an ongoing scam.

I suspect there are many "experts" out there advising you what you should do.  I have no doubt these experts will direct you to file some official report with some faceless official.  It would be nice to believe that officials are just standing by waiting to take your call and address these scams, but the reality is that the proliferation and overwhelming numbers of these scams make an effective response about as likely as the FTC effectively reigning in our cell phone providers.  My advice in typical MTQ contrarian style is to do nothing.  That's right, stop answering the phone and don't return these type of messages...if the IRS really wants you, they will send you a letter.  You are your own best resource when it comes to avoiding being a victim... good luck and if the IRS calls, hang up.