Charles E. Richardson

I was born at night, just not last night

wmarshall@macon.com

Write these phone numbers down.

(863) 624-1232

(805) 559-2386

(909) 227-6206

(714) 958-4466

These numbers originate from Ontario, or Thousand Oaks, California, or Winter Haven, Florida, and I’m sure there are many more from many more locations. They all carry the same message. They want your hard-earned money.

I started getting calls about two weeks ago, first on my home land line, then on my mobile. The messages basically had the same spiel, that the Internal Revenue Services (notice the plural) was about to file a lawsuit against me and that I should return the call.

I was born at night, but not last night. Scam alarm bells went off immediately, but I thought I would have a little fun. No fun here. When I returned the calls I either got one of four messages: The number was temporarily out of service, the mailbox was full, it was not a working number or the number could not be completed as dialed.

The IRS knows about these scams. According to a posting on its website, it received 90,000 complaints about this sort of thing, but the posting also explained that the scam had netted $5 million from 1,100 victims. That answered the question I had about why somebody would go to all the trouble of mounting such a scam. Why rob a bank? This scam is more lucrative.

Here is how it works. If they get someone on the line and the mark swallows this story, they’ll demand the mark settle up. They’ll be very aggressive and that’s not the IRS way. The scammers will ask for a credit or debit card or some other type of immediate payment.

Sometimes the scammers will lure victims in by telling the mark he has a huge refund coming if he only pays a certain amount right away. And even if the mark catches on and tells them to go to hell, they may try again using a different strategy.

The IRS will never ask for personal information (Social Security, credit card numbers) over the phone. Why should they? They have it already. However, if you decide to report the scam to the IRS, as I did, get prepared for a bit of frustration.

I tried to do it online using a link from the IRS scam document — it didn’t work. I then called a number listed to report scams, but the mailbox was full. I finally discovered the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) website (I didn’t know we had one of those), and you can file a complaint there. Where it goes after that is anyone’s guess. However, the TIGTA website has a ton of good information. The latest scam warning read like this:

“As of June 13, 2016, TIGTA has received additional information that callers impersonating Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Treasury Department employees are demanding payments not only on iTunes Gift Cards but on other gift cards as well. Scam callers may also request payment of taxes on Green Dot Prepaid Cards, MoneyPak Prepaid Cards, Reloadit Prepaid Debit Cards, and other prepaid credit cards. These are fraudulent calls.

“As a reminder, any call requesting that taxpayers place funds on an iTunes Gift Card or other gift cards to pay taxes and fees is an indicator of fraudulent activity! No legitimate United States Treasury or IRS official will demand that payments via Western Union, MoneyGram, bank wire transfers, or bank deposits be made into another person’s account for any debt to the IRS or Treasury. Hang up on these fraudulent callers and go to the TIGTA scam reporting page to report the call. Watch our videos.”

Here’s my advice. Information is power. If you have elderly parents, tell them to read this column, or, you tell them to do three things when a stranger calls:

1. Never give any personal information (I don’t care who they say they are).

2. Ignore any threats and don’t fall for callers who try to be nice. Remember, they’re sharks, and sharks do what sharks do.

3. Smile and tell the caller to have a nice day, and if they continue, hang up.

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