Well, you know it must be tax season because the scammers are out in force this year. Tax scams are nothing new and probably rake in a few million each year by forcing people to send them money on the premise they owe money to the IRS. The funny thing is I just got a call from the “IRS” on a Sunday. That’s very strange considering the government effectively doesn’t run on the weekends. I knew it was a scam almost immediately once they told me I owed money to their organization (they are pretending to be a part of the IRS). I played along for a bit asking how much I owed and why. They told me $2,500 and because I didn’t pay enough last year.
This was another red flag because $2,500 is just an even number. It’s also a number that can conveniently fit on a pre-paid debit card, which is how they wanted me to send them the money. Very strange indeed! I laughed a bit when they told me and then just hung up on them. It was 100% scam and they can’t get that crap over on me. If I had the energy, I would have messed with them a bit to see how far I could push them. I did used to be a debt collector, so getting a little harsh on the phone is right in my toolbox.
The sad thing about this scam is it’s been going on for years. I heard about it last year on NPR while driving home from the home improvement store. I’ve heard about it again as a reminder on the radio, so people won’t get duped into giving scammers money. Unfortunately, this scam will continue to go on as long as people keep giving them money.
I still wonder how people keep falling for these things? They seem too obvious and poorly orchestrated to even feel legitimate. To me, it’s just common sense and easy to spot crap like this. I guess I’m an outlier here. I’m going to show you how this tax scam works below, so you can tell others and not be taken by these jerks.
The Tax Scam
Someone calls you pretending to be an IRS agent. They provide some case numbers and even a badge number. This is to make it sound more “official”. During the conversation, they indicate you owe them some back taxes and you need to pay.
They have the last four digits of your social to make them sound scary. They tell you they will sue you or have you arrested if you don’t play. Typical bully scam. They are preying on those who don’t know any better and don’t take time to check things out.
The way they get paid is by telling you to go put money on a prepaid debit card. You are then required to call them back (not on any IRS line) and give them said prepaid card number. Once you do this, they are done with you. They have your money and can use it how they please.
See how simple this scam is? They spoof their number to make it look like an IRS number. They bully you with empty threats to make you conform to what they say. Then they ask for your payment to “make it right!”
Why Do We Fall For These Tax Scams?
As I write this, I’m still trying to figure out why people fall for these. NPR said one person paid a scammer as much as $500,000! Yes, half a million dollars went out the door to one of these scams. I can’t even believe it. These scams are so obvious that it makes me laugh. In previous attempts by these scammers to get my money, it took me all of 30 seconds to realize the person on the other end was a scammer.
Instead of hanging up on them, I played with them a bit. Made them think they had me on the hook. Unfortunately for them, I don’t fall prey to cons so easily. I’m a guy who researches the hell out of a subject (ask my wife!) and then researches it some more. I told the person on the phone to bring as many cops as they wanted to arrest me and sue me until the cows come home. I’ve been threatened by lawsuits before, so it doesn’t bother me. They immediately hung up and that was that.
How to Tell If You’re Part of a Tax Scam
OK, I’m not going to write this just to say that you shouldn’t fall victim to tax scams. It’s obvious that many people do. Let’s try to show you some ways to realize you might be getting scammed.
- The IRS doesn’t call you out of the blue to say you owe them money. They are a legitimate government organization. If you owe them money, they typically send you correspondence and then you can call them.
- If anyone tells you that you owe money to the IRS, you should be weary. You’re allowed to get verification of the amount you might owe and get clarification on how the amount was obtained. You can even fight the amount you owe.
- The IRS doesn’t force you to make payments over the phone, nor do they specifically tell you which payment method you need to use. Anytime someone says you have to wire money or use a prepaid debit card means it’s a scam.
- Never, and I mean never, take any correspondence at face value. Even if it’s from the IRS. Always get a real IRS contact number and contact them to get more information. Go to IRS.gov and find a contact number. Don’t use a number on any card, no matter who it’s from. Take 20 seconds and get the number off the IRS website and make the call yourself. You can then verify if anything you just read or heard is correct.
- The IRS will not threaten you with local police action and say they will get the cops to arrest you. If you’re a tax evader, then you might be arrested, but you will know that well in advance of a random phone call.
This tax scam is very real and quite large, like in the millions of dollars large. People have been duped out of their hard-earned money just because they didn’t take a few moments to verify the authenticity of a call. I recommend you take a moment, look at the situation, take a breather, then call the IRS yourself to see if you owe anything. If someone wants your money now, hang up the phone. These scams only exist because people keep falling for them. We can push them aside with just a little information and using common sense.
As a reminder, NEVER use a wire transfer or pre-paid card to pay someone saying they’re from the IRS. Hang up the phone, call someone to help you, then call the IRS yourself. They don’t make random phone calls to collect money. it just doesn’t happen.