Help! The IRS is Calling to Arrest Me.
By Jon Aldrich
I would venture a guess that I probably get about 6 or 7 robocalls a day on my cell phone from telemarketers or scammers. I have either won a “free” vacation, or they are trying to sell me doors and windows, or I am eligible for a loan of some sort. The one that has come up quite frequently in the last few months has been that nasty one claiming to be from the IRS, and that an arrest warrant has been issued for my arrest for either back taxes or some kind of fraud. Of course, I know I don’t have any back taxes due and if the IRS was really trying to reach me they would do it via the U.S. Postal Service.
From my recollection, I should have been arrested a few dozen times by now, based on the number of calls I have received. Still, the “IRS”, FBI or the local sheriff has not yet showed up at my door looking to put me in handcuffs.
Here is an example of what these calls may be like:
However, there are many people that are intimidated by this and call the number from the robocall. That is where the problems begin and where unsuspecting victims can soon part ways with their money. Once a victim calls the number, the crooks know they have a fish on the line and do their best to get credit card numbers or money wired to them. In fact, the methods these scammers use are surprisingly effective because they filter out those who know it’s a swindle and the people that return the call have inadvertently identified themselves as vulnerable to the scam. Now, the bad guys know they don’t have to waste a lot of time on the phone convincing a target that they are real.
The scammers have robots making thousands of calls very quickly, they can cast a wide net, and focus their time on those who actually call them back. Even if they are only getting 1 in a 1,000 people to call them back, if they can make 1 million calls that means 1,000 people have called them back. The odds are high that they will be able to convince many of these 1,000 to send them some money. The IRS said back in 2015 that these scams cost 4,550 victims over $23 million. Obviously a very lucrative business to be in if you are a phone scammer. That number is surely much higher as we get into the last half of 2017.
If you want a good chuckle, read this account of someone who called the scammers back just to mess with them. It is an entertaining account of how these guys try to get your money.
The IRS has responded by putting the following on their website:
You can view the full page here: https://www.irs.gov/uac/irs-urges-public-to-stay-alert-for-scam-phone-calls
If you receive these calls, first and foremost do not call the number on the recording. If it is a live person, hang up immediately. The IRS will never call you to demand immediate payment without first sending you something in the mail. Plus, the crooks are misrepresenting how arrest warrants actually work. If a warrant for your arrest had been issued than the case has gone far beyond the process of civil tax collection and moved to a criminal matter. Paying any money that the phone crook claims is due is not going to stop an actual arrest warrant if one was issued.
Also, the amount of money demanded from the scammers would not trigger a criminal case. It is generally small enough so that someone will pay it quickly and the amount most victims report is around $2,000. The minimum amount for the initiation of a criminal tax fraud case is $70,000. Source: https://www.expertlaw.com/library/tax-law/irs-arrest-warrant-scam ” The Law Offices of Aaron Larson”
So, if you do get a call like this and are concerned, please do not give them any personal information of any kind, and if you want to really call the IRS to see if the call is legitimate, 1-800-829-1040 is the official Internal Revenue Service phone number.
A Few Other Tips:
- If you answer and no one is there the first time, just hang up. This is a sure sign of a robocall. The reason for the delay is that a computer is dialing all these numbers and when someone answers, it must find an available live person at their call center to handle the call.
- If you do not recognize the number, just don’t answer the call. If it is important, they will leave a message.
- If you end up talking to someone, never give any personal information out over the phone. No matter how persuasive they are. NEVER!
- The scammers are getting more creative and doing things such as “spoofing” local numbers. This means the caller ID on your phone shows the number as coming from your local area code, however this is not where the call is originating. Again, if you do not recognize the number, just don’t answer it. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is handing out fines when they can to perpetrators but since there are so many of them, when they get one, 10 more pop up to take their place. However, when they are catching these 21st century bandits they are levying some hefty fines. One crook allegedly made 97 million robocalls in just 3 months in 2016 and is now looking at a fine of $120 million.
- Make sure you are signed up on the National Do Not Call registry. https://www.donotcall.gov/ Be aware though, that I have been signed up on this for years, and I still get many, many calls.
This is just the latest, most popular method that crooks are using. There are many other phone scams out there as well, and suffice it to say, as long as people call them back or talk to them on the phone, there will be plenty of victims for them to exploit. Do not be one of them!
Finally as I was finishing up this article, I stumbled upon news of a class action settlement against the company that was making annoying calls of a free cruise. I know I got a number of these a while back. Well, apparently if your number was called you may be eligible for compensation from the class action lawsuit and possibly get up to $900, although I suspect the figure will be somewhat lower than that when all is said and done. You can check to see if your number is on the list here. https://www.rmgtcpasettlement.com/Landing.aspx My family had 2 cell phone numbers on the list. If your number shows on the list you can fill out the forms needed to be part of the settlement right on the website or request printed copies. Consider it a small token of revenge against these creeps.