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New Technology, Same Old Scams: Criminals Holding on Line One

5/24/2018 - By Bob Woock, MCSE

They’re at it again.  Same Bat time, same Bat channel!

The Joker and the Riddler’s of the TAX scammers are teaming up again to take your money.  And they are not changing their MO, (that is Modus Operandi in case you have never watched a detective show).

And what is their preferred MO?

Phone calls from the IRS notifying you there is a warrant for your arrest! You may think that tax scams only take place online these days, but many criminals prefer old-fashioned tactics that could catch you completely off-guard!  

So, the major tax filing season is at an end, and once again the scammers (thieves) are ramping up their fraudulent phone calls. Phone technology has grown by leaps and bounds, but these are the same old scams that the IRS warned us about back in 2013.  

And in case you do not read the entire article, here is how to report frauds as well as information on the latest scams; but, I think you will enjoy the rest of the article, so stay with me a little longer.

Has anything changed with the new round of phone calls from the 2013 IRS warning?

Evidently not.  Recently, a tax professional I know received a phone call explaining that the IRS had a warrant out for their arrest.  Here is how they described the call:

“Just yesterday I received a voicemail on my cell phone from a Washington, D.C. (202) area code with a computerized voice saying that IRS had initiated an audit against me and that an arrest warrant in my name was also issued against me!  The message then left a completely unrelated other phone number for me to call with a (415) area code (San Francisco).”

As they went on to explain, the area code of the initial call was from a Washington DC (202) area code, which means it could have been from an IRS number.  On top of that, the computerized voice sounded like the authoritative voices used in legitimate automated government calls.  What clearly revealed the call to be a scam was that the number provided to call, area code 415, had a San Francisco area code.  This immediately revealed that the call was most likely scamming in action. It is highly unlikely that there were special IRS agents working out of San Francisco in this manner.

I can imagine, that for those of us who are not aware of these scams, or have the experience of a seasoned CPA to recognize these minor details, this type of phone call must cause a lot of undue stress.  And many will probably follow the instructions and call the number the scammers provide.  Unfortunately, it is likely that some will part with their hard-earned money if they don’t catch on to it quick enough.

So, you might be asking, what does one of these calls sound like?

This 2016 NPR article can provide some actual audio of what you are likely to hear on one of these calls.  NOTE: You will need to listen to a 30 second commercial from NPR on the first audio clip, but hang in there, it is worth listening to just to get educated on how smooth these thieves are.

How can you be sure you don’t fall victim to these malicious Jokers?

If in fact the IRS has initiated an audit, they will notify you via “SNAIL MAIL.”  The notification will arrive in your old postal mailbox on physical paper.  You will not learn about an IRS audit from anything that arrives in your email box or over the phone.  And even then, you should go to the IRS’s website and call one of their numbers listed there --  Or better yet call your CPA and let them handle it.  Don’t go it alone!

And if the IRS has issued an arrest warrant, you will not be notified at all.  The day an officer of the law reads your Miranda rights, is the day you find out there is an arrest warrant from the IRS.  So, there is no point in worrying about that!  Which means if anyone is attempting to warn you about an arrest warrant issued by the IRS, you can ignore that, move on with life, and keep your hard-earned cash in your pocket.

In summary,

1. Get the Facts, then Hang Up

If you have anyone asking for money over the phone for anything from a supposed government agency, find out what department of the government they are from, employee name, badge number, call back number and caller ID or similar information.  Then hang up!  And if you really need to be sure, visit that government agency online and call them directly. 

2. Report a Scam

The IRS encourages reporting this type of activity. They provide lots of detail about the latest scams and where and how to report the scammers.

3. Don’t Do It Alone!

If it is an IRS issue, contact a CPA for assistance.  

About the Author | Bob Woock, MCSE
Bob is a manager in the Information Technology Services Department of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund. His primary areas of experience include providing managed IT services for medium and small businesses across various industries such as manufacturing, accounting, and healthcare. He has over 30 years of IT experience working in database and network administration as well as cyber security, both in the private sector and with the United States Marine Corp.

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