I was wrapped up in my writing this morning when I got a call on my cell phone from an automated message saying I had to call a number in the 2-1-3 area code for a tax fraud case against me.
Adrenaline kicked in when I dialed the number and a live person answered, "Treasury Department." He identified as Jack (with a common last name) and said I had reached the Treasury Department. He told me my 2012 taxes had been audited, I owed $ 1,985.66 and I hadn't responded to notices that were sent out and now, as soon as he and I hung up, I was going to be arrested.
Well, it was a Monday.
He asked if I had a lawyer and I said "no" and he advised me to get one right away. I was scared only because there were so many issues on my mind. He gave me a tax number and I asked about paying off the amount. He said, "It's too late" and told me that if I had acted sooner then they could have worked something out.
He even gave me a case number and told me not to leave home for three hours because the sheriff's department would come in that time to arrest me. And that I would probably spend 30 days in jail.
Now, one of the things that bothered me was Jack definitely had an East Indian accent. Of course, it's not an uncommon accent around LA or Washington, D.C. or wherever else he Treasury Department might work.
I called my wife and an attorney off the Internet at the same time. After about 30 seconds, the attorney told me not to worry and said it was a scam. The IRS is going to send certified notices.
My wife said, "If they arrest you, will you get to take your toothbrush?" Kidding. Her colleague had received a call like that recently and, he, too, said the IRS ain't going to call you on the phone.
To be safe, I called the Sheriff's department and he said they get thousands of queries like that every year. He said they've not gone out to arrest someone for less than a couple of thousand dollars since the early1800s.
Here's what to do if someone calls you and says they're with the IRS.
1) Don't believe them. The IRS will not call you. Click here to an IRS article warning against phone scams.
2) Ask for their name and badge number.
3) Hang up.
4) You can file a notification on this site that the Federal Trade Commission has established.
5) You can also report on this site for the Treasury Department.
6) Preparation is key to your own confidence. Keep your bills paid on time and your information to yourself. No matter how convincing someone is over the phone do not give out personal information.