My wife got a scary call on her cellphone last week. The man said he was from the IRS and that we owed money. She asked me to call him back. I was surprised it wasn’t an (800) number. My second surprise was that they answered right away. Usually, when I call the IRS with a question, I have my phone on speaker for an hour, while I listen to grating “hold music.”
The man who answered spoke English with a very heavy Indian accent. He said his name was Michael and he rattled off his IRS ID number. He told me they had audited our returns from 2000 to 2005 and found that we had committed five counts of tax fraud. He gave me the case number. He said we owed $11,000.
Just getting this information out of Michael was tortuous because I could barely understand him. I told him we had used a CPA to prepare those returns and that we had relied on his advice. (I always use an accountant. If something goes wrong, at least I’ll have someone I know to share the prison cell). In fact, I asked Michael if they were going to send me to jail. He assured me they wouldn’t if I made a partial payment of the $11,000.
I’ve been told I’m very gullible, for a private detective. I tend to think the best of people and don’t often doubt their word. But even I found Michael’s story fishy. Plus, I wanted to talk to someone I could understand. So I asked for his supervisor.
Another man came on the line. He had an Indian accent but not as pronounced. He also rattled off his IRS ID number. He asked me for my date of birth and Social Security number. I asked him what this was all about. My understanding is that tax fraud is a criminal matter and had nothing to do with paying back taxes.
The supervisor said they wouldn’t have to arrest me if I immediately came up with a partial payment. When I balked, he became more threatening. He claimed they had served me with two notices about this and that I was liable for the $11,000. I finally asked the supervisor the address where they served me and he gave me one in Melrose Park. I told him I didn’t live there. Click.
After I hung up, I felt like someone who had been worried by a stray dog. I decided to trace the phone number, which I should have done in the first place. The number, 916-550-8154, came back to a company in Sacramento, California. There were many warnings posted that this was an IRS scam.
In sharing this story with others, I learned that many residents of Forest Park have received this scary call. Most are savvier than me and hang up immediately. They even tried to scam my 86-year-old mother-in-law but she was too sharp for them. My neighbor was concerned an older person might fall for it. I thought she meant me and thought again about dying my hair.
So as a public service to the old and young, I’m exposing this scam. I wouldn’t want anyone to hand over their credit card information to a thief like Michael. Just remember, you don’t have to be a private detective to know that the IRS never answers on the first ring.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.