I originally posted this on April 20, 2015. I'm reposting it because the problem is even more widespread this year.
This morning I received a call on my cell phone. The incoming call had a 347 area code. A young-sounding woman asked for Regina Martin and told me she was calling from the Internal Revenue Service. For a few seconds I started to sweat, but then I remembered that the IRS never calls people at home as a first contact. They reach you by postal mail, so this was probably a scam. The woman asked if I was aware that there was a warrant out for my arrest (no). She asked if I wanted more information about that. I said yes. She explained that I had broken three federal laws by filing income tax forms that were incorrect. She asked if I wanted more information on the laws I had broken. I said yes. She said it was about incorrect calculations on my tax returns and failing to report income. She said I owed money. Apparently she was following up on information the IRS had mailed to me weeks earlier.
Hearing that she was following up on a letter made me nervous again because sometimes I don't open my mail immediately, but I kept in mind that the chances of this being a real call were low. She asked a lot of questions for someone who was calling to give me information. She asked if I had received the IRS's letter. She asked if I was sure I hadn't received the letter. She asked if I filed my taxes myself or if I had used a tax preparer (I didn't answer this). She then told me that because of the warrant out for my arrest, I could expect the police to arrive soon. She said that as soon as we hung up she would forward my file to the local police in my area who would come to my door, arrest me and place me in a holding cell where I'd have to await trial.
It was when she asked if I did my taxes or used a preparer that I decided this was definitely a scam phone call. If she were really calling from the IRS to tell me I was in trouble, why would she need to ask how I filed my taxes? The other suspicious thing was the background noise: I could hear many more conversations going on, as if this woman were sitting with many other people making phone calls, all at the same time. Her little description of what being arrested would be like also seemed unprofessional. Finally, I found it odd the way she only gave me bits of information and then asked if I wanted to know more. That's how advertising works, not enforcers of the law.
When I wouldn't answer any questions about my taxes or finances, she reminded me that as soon as we hung up, she'd forward my file to my local police who would come and arrest me within 40 minutes. She asked if I had anything to say. In an attempt to find out exactly what the scam was, I said, "What do I have to do to make the police not come and arrest me?" She said she could only help me if I'd answer her questions about how I'd filed my taxes. I still wouldn't do that, so she reminded me about the police and asked again, "Do you have anything to say?" I said, "I didn't do it." She said, "Didn't do what?" I said, "I didn't commit tax fraud." She told me again that she could only help me if I talked to her.
Then I asked for her name and exactly where she was calling from. She said her name was Lucy Roland and she was calling from the investigation office in Brooklyn, New York. I asked for her exact title and she said she investigated cases for the IRS. When I pressed for a job title, she said she was an investigation officer. I asked her for a phone number I could call to talk about my case. She said that once we hung up, it would be too late, she'd forward my file. I insisted on a phone number in case I changed my mind a few minutes after we hung up and wanted to talk more. Finally she gave me a number: 347-732-5357. At some point earlier in the call, she had asked me if I wanted my case number. I said yes and she gave it to me.
At this point I laughed and said, "I earn about $40,000 a year and I find it very unlikely that the IRS would go after me for tax fraud. And to actually send the police to arrest me!" She said she was just informing me of what was going to happen. I said, "So the police will be here 40 minutes after we hang up?" She said, "Yes." I said, "Okay, well then I'll go shower now, and get ready for them." We hung up, and I called the number she had given me. I got a busy signal.
My message to you today: The IRS doesn't make phone calls. They send letters. These scammers are assholes who play on one of our worst American fears: doing time and/or paying penalties for tax evasion. The woman kept saying the words "warrant" and "arrest." It was scary and cruel.
Our phone call ended at 10:50 a.m. It's now 12:42 as I finish this post, and I'm still waiting for the police. Just in case, I've eaten a hearty meal and put on some nice makeup.