Here a Scam, There a Scam

Do you think the US prison system will allow me to continue posting on WordPress while I’m in the slammer? I sure hope so. My posting frequency is spotty enough without having to go on hiatus while I do my time. That’s right folks. I’m going to jail. The pokey. The hoosegow. I knew it was just a matter of time until the long arm of the law caught up with me.

Her is the voice message I received today, which I’ve transcribed verbatim:

“This is the IRS. We have just received a notification regarding your tax filings from the headquarters which will get expired in next 24 working hours. And once it get expired after that you will be taken under custody by the local cops as there are 4 serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment. We would request you to get back to us so that we can discuss about this case before taking any legal action against you. The number to reach us is XXX-XXX-XXXX.”

Oh good! I could use a change of scenery. I’ve always thought a prison sentence would be a good opportunity to catch up on my reading. Or work out enough to finally get those six-pack abs.

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Don’t worry; I’m joking. I don’t look good in orange. And if I’m going down, I’ll make sure it’s for something that makes for a better story than tax evasion.

I worked as an accountant for 30 years, the last 13 at a CPA’s office. I know that the IRS never, ever, ever, calls or emails about your tax filings. You will get a letter via snail mail. They will only call or email if you have a current inquiry open with them. If that’s the case, you will know the IRS agent in charge of your case.

As scams go, this call was a sloppy example. The language alone gives it away. “Taken under custody by the local cops…?” Whoever wrote this script should have watched a few more episodes of Law and Order. But not every attempt is so lame. While working at the CPA firm, we would get calls from distraught clients all the time. Scammers have gotten very good at sounding legit. Emails, in particular, get noticed. They often include realistic logos and enough personal information to get your attention.

Whenever I get these calls, my first reaction is to laugh.

My second reaction is anger and sadness because I know there are people out there who will take the bait. Vulnerable people who are afraid of the authorities – especially the IRS. Even to many law-abiding citizens, the IRS is the big bad wolf. They are the monster under the bed and the boogie man, all rolled into one, coming to take your hard-earned savings.

Wherever there is a fear, there is a scammer ready to capitalize on it.

scammers_everywhere

A few years before he died, my Dad got a call from a scammer posing as my nephew. He said he was in Florida for a bachelor party, got in a fight and was in jail. His friends had pooled their money to get another friend out but had left him high and dry. He begged my Dad not tell my brother (his own Dad.) He even explained his altered voice by claiming he had a broken nose and busted lip from the fight.

He had just enough personal data to make his story sound realistic. He obviously didn’t realize he’d contacted one of the world’s biggest skeptics. My Dad may have been old, but he was not stupid. He noted inconsistencies in the story and uncharacteristic behavior of his grandson but listened patiently. When asked if he would send money, my Dad said “Well of course! I’d love to help you out. Just tell me one thing. What was the place that your Dad and I took you and your brother camping when you turned 13.”

Click.

Way to go, Dad!

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Scammers have made untold millions from the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, even the savviest among us can fall victim to these creeps. Keep your wits about you. Warn elderly relatives about placing their trust in strangers on the phone or online.

Scams and cons have been around since the serpent offered some really juicy produce to Eve. It pays to be a skeptic.

Have you had a similar experience? Leave a comment. If the “local cops” don’t show up to throw me in the clink, I’ll respond.

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