A Taxing Scam: Just Hang Up
You can always count on death and taxes, which means there’s one more thing to add to that cliché: You can always count on the bad guys trying to scam you during tax season. Their favorite form of this scam is to call you and claim they are from the IRS. They say they discovered some sort of “mistake” on your tax filing and tell you to pay a penalty right now or else they’ll send a deputy “to take you to jail.”
If you get a call like this, it’s important to remember IRS representatives don’t call people. They always correspond by mail, so, if you get a call, the best thing to do is to just hang up. Some people tell me they keep talking to them to mess with them, to make them think they’re going to fall for the scam. I don’t recommend doing that. A lot of these con artists are very good at what they do. The more you talk to them, the more they think they can find some way to convince you to hand over your money. So just hang up.
Don’t be surprised if they know your name and your address. That information is readily available on the internet. And don’t let a local telephone number on your caller ID fool you, either. Scammers can manipulate the technology to make it look as if they’re calling from a local number, but they could be somewhere overseas, for all you know. So, again, just hang up. If they call and leave you a message, don’t call them back.
Another red flag is that, to pay your “fine,” they’ll want you to go to a store, buy a reloadable debit card, load it with money, and then give them the numbers on the front and back. Once they have the card’s numbers, they have the card and you’re out of money. Often, they’ll even know where the closest store is and direct you to it.
The fraudsters are trying to scare you. They want you to be afraid and make a rash decision. You may know in the back of your mind that it sounds fishy, but they get you so terrified of “going to jail” that you give them money anyway. The key is to remain calm, understand that it’s a scam and hang up. The scam obviously works on someone, or the bad guys wouldn’t keep trying it. Just don’t let that someone be you.