May This Never Happen To You

It’s ironic that just a month ago I wrote about scams and cons.  Today I was a victim of one.  These trolls made me miss two hours out of my work day and caused me an enormous amount of emotional distress.  While my post in January was about multi-level marketing schemes, this was an entirely different ballgame.  Before I begin my story, let me just say that I had never experienced anything like this before, and these people were VERY convincing.  I write about this in the hopes to educate others about the specifics of this scam, and warn you that this can happen to anyone.  (Quick disclaimer– They did not receive any money from me whatsoever, and did not get any information from me beyond what they already had.)

At 9:45 am I got a call on my cell phone.  The woman on the other end of the line, who had an Indian accent, asked for me by name and confirmed that it was me.  She proceeded to tell me she was calling from the IRS and that I was flagged for tax evasion. I protested this and demanded to speak to her supervisor.

She told me she didn’t have a supervisor, they only had department heads.  I asked to speak to her department head.  She got belligerent, asking why I wanted to speak to her department head.

“Because this makes no sense.  I never got any letters from the IRS in the mail.”

She insisted she be allowed to read me the charges that were being filed against me.  This is what she said:

1. Violation of the Internal Revenue Service Act

2. Providing misleading information to government authorities

3. Violation of the Citizen Immigration Services Act  (I don’t even think this is a real act now.)

She told me that the police would soon be arriving at my doorstep to handcuff me and take me for a court hearing (!!)  By this point I was really freaking out.  She recited my home address to me and had me confirm it.  Then she asked me a series of questions.  From what I can remember:

-Have you ever been arrested for any offense before?

-Have you ever been in trouble with the IRS before?

-Have you conducted financial transactions with a foreign country?

I answered no to all of these.  She thanked me for answering these questions honestly and repeated back to me that they have on record that I did so.  She talked to me about my tax preparer and said that he must not have been authorized by the government, and that he made miscalculations in my tax files.

She was not very clear in her instructions as to next steps, because she kept talking about how the police were going to come and get me.  Then we got around to how I could get out of this jam without going to court.  She gave me a figure of how much they said I owed.  Never once were the words “back taxes” used.  I should have guessed at this point, I guess, but I was panicking.

So I told her I could pay it in order to settle this.

“Do you have that money in your account now?”

“Yes.”

“Where is your nearest bank branch to where you are now?”

“On the corner.”

“Ok, I want you to go to your bank, and withdraw the money. After that, the IRS officials are going to come to your home and get the money with you, and provide you with the paperwork that says you are free and clear of these charges.”

“I’m at work.  I’m not at home.”

“Tell your boss you need the day off.”

I went back inside and told my boss I had an emergency and needed to leave.  He said I could go.

“Ok, now you need to stay on the line with me while you go to your bank.  If you hang up, we will take that as a refusal to pay, and you will be arrested.”

I started walking.  On the way there I lost the connection while waiting for the crossing signal at the corner.  I was frantic.  The woman called me back.  She was very harsh, accusing me of hanging up intentionally.  I promised I hadn’t.  I went to the bank, heart pounding, not just from walking fast.

Nervous, so nervous, I went to the counter and withdrew the money from my savings account.  I had them put it in an unmarked envelope.  What was I thinking?  I don’t know. Again.  Panic.  I’m going to be arrested.

I told the woman on the phone that I had the cash.  Then she told me I needed to go to the CVS closest to my place of employment, where there was a MoneyGram service.  I was surprised because I thought the next step was to go home with the cash and wait for the men to come.  I realize how incredibly stupid that sounds.  I lost the call once more on the way out of the bank, giving me another heart attack, and the woman called back again with more accusations.

She told me to stay on the phone with her as I walked to my car and to let her know when I got there.  I did so.  I anxiously drove to CVS and parked in the lot.  At this point she gave me an account number and a receiver code.  She also said something strange,

“Your company name is Walmart. W-A-L-M-A-R-T.  Expiration date 6/18.”

“Wait… Walmart like the store?  Walmart as in Target, Walmart, that kind of thing?”

“It’s just the company name.”

I think that’s where things really started to fall apart.  She transferred me to a man who told me I should go to the red MoneyGram phone inside the store and when I reached Customer Service, I should say that I wanted to make 2 transactions-  One in the amount of $500, and the other in the amount of $450, because MoneyGram has a $950 per transfer limit.

This is where I got to thinking… why are they instructing me to make these transactions, after they just ran me through getting all that cash?  And what will this MoneyGram thing have to do with the IRS showing up on my doorstep to give me the papers freeing me from this business.  I think I knew what I had to do.

I went into the store, asked where the MoneyGram phone was, keeping the man on the other line.  An old woman was blocking it with her cart, so I bought myself some time to think by telling him I had to wait to use it.  When the woman moved, I picked up the red receiver.  I tried listening to the instructions with my right ear as the man from the “IRS” on the other end of the line of the cell phone call on my left ear got more impatient.

At the same time, I wrote the following message on a payment slip from the bank that I’d used as scratch paper:

Please call police &  have them check # 863-274-6119.  I might be getting robbed.  Not sure.

I pushed the note across the counter.  The cashier could tell something was wrong, since I was shaking.  She wrote,

What do they say they will do to you?

I wrote back–  Arrest me.

She shook her head and mouthed the words, “Scam!  Don’t send them anything!”

I mouthed back the words “Please help.  Call the police.”

I managed to stall the man on the phone long enough for a CVS employee to call the police.  The manager came up and put me on the phone with them.

I told the man from the fake IRS that I was feeling nervous, having trouble with the phone, feeling sick, anything I could do to stall him.  I told him again I was feeling sick and I put the phone aside.  The police woman told me right there that it was a scam.  They do this. They call people and say they’re the IRS and that you’re going to be arrested if you don’t comply.  She told me the IRS doesn’t call people.  They don’t accept payments by MoneyGram.  They send letters in the mail.  While I was on the phone with her I could hear the guy on my cell phone saying, “Hello?  Hello?”  She said if they or anyone else tried this again that I should definitely call the Wilshire Community Police Office.

I thanked the police and got back on the phone with the scammer.  I told him I’d called the police and that I knew this was a scam and not to call me again.  He argued with me and acted shocked–  “When did you call the police?  While you were on the phone with me?”  The store manager asked to speak with him, to help me out.  He went in his office with my phone and closed the door.  I’m not sure what all he said to the guy, but I did hear him say, “You’re scaring her.  Leave her alone.  Don’t call back.”  I think he called back 3 times before he gave up.

I took some time sitting at the counter by the photo processing computer.  I sat and I thought and I talked to the manager, the cashier, and a customer who overheard part of it, who said his father was a bigwig at the IRS and the IRS Never.  Calls.  People.

You know, G-d bless those CVS employees.  They gave me a bottle of water and after calming down, I went straight back to the bank, put that cash right back in my account, and went back to work.

I didn’t feel embarrassed… I felt angry.  I still feel angry.  I feel anxious even typing this.  But I had to get this out there.  If any scam artists read this, know that I am aware of you.  I know what you do.  You won’t fool me again.

And for everyone else… let this be a lesson.  Be aware, be vigilant… and don’t pick up the phone if you don’t recognize the number.  If it’s that important, they’ll leave a voice mail.

Share this with your friends and family and keep them safe by letting them know that bad people like this are real and they’re out there to prey on innocent citizens.

UPDATE:  If this happens to you, please report it here:

IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting – U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)

And here:  Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Complaint Assistant

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4 thoughts on “May This Never Happen To You

  1. Holy shit. I am so sorry you had to go through this. I hope you report this to the proper authorities (whomever that may be) and to the IRS so they can take steps to stop this kind of thing.

    Like

  2. Leighton says:

    For what it’s worth, you’ve taken the best revenge possible for an ordinary person, which is to waste 2-3 hours of their time without giving them any payoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a very similar experience in March or April of last year, except as I am living in the UK they managed to get a hold of my brother and parents and got them to get in contact with me.

    They used similar threats and were very convincing. My wife and I had only just had our daughter and were barely sleeping at the time. I was lucky in that my wife and I are both extremely short on money, and did not have the immediate option of paying them off.

    I was able to google the company they said they were with, (can’t remember it now) and found evidence to prove it was an attempted scam. It was a horrible situation and really scared us at the time.

    I’m sorry it happened to you, but I am glad you were able to find out it was a scam prior to them getting anything from you.

    Like

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