So, yesterday, I was going through the messages on my home answering machine. Yes, I’m old school. I still have a landline. Granted, I don’t use it a whole lot, and pretty much anyone who needs to reach me calls my cell, but I’ve had a landline forever, and it’s actually cheaper to keep it with the internet and television package I have, so there you have it.
Anyway, I had quite a few messages to go through. Most of them were nonsense- solicitors and such, messages about credit cards I don’t even have, and so on. I listened to each, or at least the beginning of each, before clicking “delete,” and moving to the next. Well, after clicking “next” one of the times, I found myself listening to a message that sounded very serious and very important. Basically, it went something like this (I’ll be paraphrasing here):
“This call is for Matthew La Farr. This is Officer Connor with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, badge # (some number that currently eludes me). There is an arrest warrant out for you from the Internal Revenue Service. It is important that you call back within thirty minutes to settle this matter. You can reach me at this number, or you can call Officer Rivers (made that up, can’t remember the second officer’s name) who is working with the Internal Revenue Service. He can be reached at “insert forgotten phone number here.” If this matter is not dealt with immediately, someone from the Warren County Sheriff’s Department will show up to arrest you either at your house or at your place of employment. This is a very serious matter and must be settled as soon as possible to avoid arrest.”
So, as I listened, like anyone, I was kind of taken aback, and racked my brain- “Do I have an issue with the IRS?” (Pretty sure that I was square with them, but you never know.) “Is it possible that there is a Matthew La Farr somewhere else in the country that has a legitimate warrant out for him due to some sort of issue with the IRS?” “What the heck is going on here?” “Should I be worried?” “Orrrr, is this a scam?”
The thing that made me worry at first was that even my phone displayed a local number (518-743-xxxx) and the displayed name was “WARR COUNT SHE” or something like that (my phone doesn’t usually display the entire name when it is too many characters, so that didn’t strike me as odd). It legitimately looked like it was coming from the Warren County Sheriff.
I decided not to delete that message, and instead, save it to write all the details down and do a little research when
I finished going through the rest of the messages. The next message started, and it was from the veterinarian’s office letting me know about our cats, and how they were doing and that they were ready to be picked up, or something like that. They had been brought in to get some shots and a flea bath, and the usual cat stuff that cats need. Their names are Medli and Chloe (if you’re keeping track at home). Upon hearing the message about the cats, I started to calm down a little. Their visit to the vet’s office was like 6 weeks ago, maybe more. It was then that I realized the call about the whole IRS debacle had to be a scam. If I was really Public Enemy #1, and if I was really moments away from having the SWAT Team rappel through my front window, it would have happened by the time I heard the message 6 weeks later.
I figured since now I didn’t have to start getting my affairs in order, I would turn to the trusty internet to see if this was a common scam. It didn’t take long to find out that there are many IRS-based scams out there, and that intimidation and fear are the usual tactics. The basic premise of the scam is that if you actually answer the call (or call back when they leave a message) they try to convince you that you have some sort of tax issue that needs to be immediately resolved in order to avoid arrest. Of course, many unsuspecting people are more than willing to settle this over the phone, no questions asked, to avoid jail time. So, what happens is you agree to pay the $600, or whatever, and you give them your banking information, or debit card, or whatever payment method you choose, and next thing you know- you’ve been robbed.
This time of year, of course, with everyone working on their year-end finances, and preparing for Tax Day, a call from the IRS doesn’t seem that unusual. As you can see on the IRS Website, they NEVER conduct business like that. They never call you and demand immediate payment, and for that matter, they never call if you owe money without sending a bill first.
Long story short, don’t fall for it. Educate yourself. Visit the IRS Website regarding scams. Spread the word. Not everyone has cats to save the day.