Mr. Tee-mur, the IRS is going to sue you!
There was a message on our answering machine in recent days from a woman purporting to be from the IRS, saying, “Mr. Tee-mur, the IRS is going to sue you! Call 360-851-1764 (that’s the real number) immediately for more information! There was a pause after the answering machine picked up, as often happens when you get a phone solicitation. There wasn’t anyone at home to hang up quickly, though, so the message got left. And really, if national or regional IRS called, it would almost certainly leave a toll free number for you to call, even if it believed you owed it money.
We’ve not been audited nor had or have a deficiency notice outstanding, so for these reasons and those mentioned above, I knew it was a scam. Unless you are Robert Vesco and about to leave the country with your money, this just isn’t the way the IRS operates. The IRS wouldn’t have given Vesco a heads-up call, though.
But I decided to call back, just for fun, and string them along a little. I called back the next day, heard the same pause on the line after the phone went off-hook on the other end. I identified myself and asked what was up. This is more or less how the conversation went. I could hear other voices in the background; it was obviously some kind of boiler room operation.
Mr. Tee-mur, the IRS is going to sue you, and put a lien on your house and cars and freeze your bank accounts.
[triumphantly] Tax evasion!
Really? What taxes did I evade?
Okay, but what specifically did I evade taxes on? This is the first I heard of it.
We attempted to contact you twice!
No, you didn’t.
You owe the sum of four thousand (I can’t remember the exact number, but the “agent” had one) dollars.
Tell me the dates on which you tried to contact me. We’ve lived here a long time.
[exasperated] Mr. Tee-mur, we will file the lawsuit immediately!
We’ve not been audited nor received a deficiency notice.
Mr. Tee-mur, do you want to settle this out of court, or must we file the lawsuit?
I’m not going to settle anything until I get a written explanation of what you claim I owe.
[repeating] Mr. Tee-mur, do you want to settle this out of court, or must we file the lawsuit? [obviously fishing for me to say I wanted to settle, whereupon he’d ask for a credit card or bank account number].
I tell you what. Send me a fax.
Goodbye, Mr. Tee-mur, you have 45 minutes to call me back.
I should have called him back to run it out a little longer, but I didn’t.
I am calling this a community post rather than a story, because it is a cautionary tale. I suspect my name, address (which they also knew), and phone number were stolen from a database somewhere. (Based on the snowstorm of Medicare pitches I’ve gotten over the last many months, a lot of people obviously have data about me.)
As a lawyer, I knew that the pitch being made was worse than implausible. But they knew enough about me to make the whole thing believable to some people, especially seniors. The prospect of having your bank accounts frozen might be enough to get some people get out the credit card.
So, not only don’t be fooled, please fraud proof your parents or other elderly friends and relatives about things like this.
If the IRS wants to audit you, or it believes you owe it money, it will send you a letter requesting an audit or enclosing a deficiency notice.
This is clearly wire fraud, a federal crime. I’ve called it to the attention of the FBI; it isn’t a tax matter, but rather a criminal matter. That’s what you should do, too, if approached with something like this.
Update: Well, it wasn’t just me.
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