At 12:09 p.m., Thursday, September 18, 2015, my answering machine recorded an urgent message from the IRS:
“This call is officially a Final Notice from IRS [sic]—Internal Revenue Service! The reason of [sic] this call is to inform you that the IRS is filing lawsuit [sic] against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately on [sic] our department number. . . .”
I recognized the message as bogus immediately and did not return the call. Where were the earlier notices, I wondered. The disparity in tone between the beginning and ending were another clue. So were the grammatical glitches. I had another reason for spotting this as an attempted scam: I knew how the IRS handled things, because my wife and I had been audited—something you’d wish on only your very worst enemy. (Our crackerjack tax accountant appealed our subsequent charges of $75,000, and as it turned out, on appeal the agency was instead found to owe us $200.) The salient point here is that the IRS notifies people in writing—never by such telephone hyjinx.
As it happens, this scam has been prevalent in the greater Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York, area as CSI executive director Barry Karr showed me with some printouts of articles from The Buffalo News. On reporting the attempted fraud to the IRS, I discovered the ruse is so common nationally, that the agency’s hotline voice mailbox is typically full. Several of my coworkers have received these calls but they know to be skeptical!
Those who fall for the scam may be told that they can only resolve the case by making immediate payments over the phone, using credit or debit cards or a wire transfer, thus allowing the bogus agents to collect the funds and then disappear. One Niagara County man told sheriff’s deputies he had turned over $8,000 to such a scammer.
From police to the real IRS, authorities advise people getting such a call to immediately hang up and never give any important information over the telephone.