Editor’s Column: Much More Sinister Than The IRS

Dear Readers:

I’m tired and annoyed, and now I’m at the Police Department. It’s Wednesday morning, and instead of delivering the September 14 edition of The Nashville News, I’m at the Nashville Police Department wondering what can be done…about the IRS.

It’s not really the IRS of course. I, like many of those who live in and around this area, and likely around the country as a whole, have found my phone acting as a target for those reprehensible creatures, the absolute dregs of society, human beings barely deserving of being called human: telephone scammers.

Oh, I know this is a scam, I’ve not given my money, bank account information or social security number to anyone. The fact that they use an autodialer that says “WE are calling you from investigation team of IRS”, rather than saying “Internal Revenue Service” or you know, sending certified mail like the IRS always will, is a tip-off.

So I’m not in the Police station because I’ve been ripped off, but rather, because the same number, (612) 406-8361, “Minnesota- Twin Cities” on my caller ID, had rang me four times that morning.

I’m there to ask if there is a registry for scam numbers or something like that.

I’m there to ask, “is there anything you can do?”

Unfortunately, local law enforcement can’t do too much for a person when it comes to this sort of thing.

I should clarify, the police are not restricted because they don’t want to help.

Invariably, people who do the work they do, well, when there are people preying on their people, that bugs them. A lot. The restrictions they work under though, are in terms of their jurisdiction, their budget, and their mission.

Local law enforcement keep the peace. They patrol our roads. God forbid it being necessary, but they prevent or worse, respond to, violence.

What they are not is an investigative agency with carte blanche to cross state lines, pull phone records, or arrest people in the Twin Cities (If that’s even where these scammers really are).

The police did tell me that if someone is robbed or does somehow suffer a loss of money or property, that person should call them. They’ll take an official report, and will pass it to whatever agencies are responsible for handling these things on the kinds of scales and geographic levels we are talking about.

All that said, the police already deal with a lot of calls from people who gotten these calls and if someone local hasn’t already been victimized, the best response is not to report it, but to remain vigilant. Be cautious out there, on the phone, online, and in person.

If a situation seems fishy, be safe.

DON’T GIVE YOUR MONEY, ID OR OTHER PERSONAL INFORMATION TO ANYONE WHO YOU ARE SUSPICIOUS OF.

The IRS will contact you by certified mail. Repeatedly if necessary

The IRS will not threaten to have an arrest warrant issued, and if they do decide to arrest you, you will have been ignoring plenty of that certified mail before they do. This is kind of silly though, because the IRS doesn’t really want to arrest or jail people, because then you can’t pay your bill.

On their own website, the IRS debunks these phone based scams saying:

“The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.”

The problem isn’t with people here. If there was any fairness to this, it wouldn’t be the good people, the “victims” that were forced to change, it would be the bad guys trying to rob them.

That isn’t the world we live in though.

In this world, doing the right thing, for you, for your family, for the local police, and yes, even for the real IRS, is to be cautious. To hang up the phone.

People wanting to be good is what these scammers prey on – you don’t want to rip off the IRS, so you pay. You don’t want to be arrested, so you pay. They know that we want to do the right thing, and they make you think for just a minute, that giving them that credit card or bank account number will make it so that you are doing the right thing.

It’s better to be cautious. It’s better to apologize on the off chance that it really was the IRS.

If all else fails, and it’s got you that worried that the police and sheriff’s departments will be knocking on your door, then by all means, call them.

Call the Sheriff’s or Police Department, but do it BEFORE you give that account number though. But don’t pay the person on the other end of that autodialer.

Better yet, give the IRS a call.

While local law enforcement might be interested in stopping people from being victimized, the IRS is interested in bringing the hammer down on impersonators. They have their own money to lay hands on, and no matter your thoughts on the tax man, you have to know that this is the sort of thing they don’t take kindly too.

Coincidentally, both the IRS and the Department of the Treasury have website dedicated to stopping reporting these scams (I was not able to find a phone hotline for reporting them, but perhaps someone else will let me know and we can put it in a future edition of the paper).

For the IRS, head to www.irs.gov/uac/report-phishing, and for the treasury, head to www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml.

If you have been victimized by scammers like these, and wish to tell others about what happened, please contact us by email at [email protected] and let us know what happened and how you think others should act to keep it from happening again. Be sure to include your name and a way for us to contact you as well.

While this column is focused on the IRS scam, please be aware that it is just the latest scam, and unfortunately, won’t be the last. No matter who is out there though, being cautious and tight-handed with your personal and financial info is always a good idea. Please, be safe.

–Alex Haglund, Managing Editor

Much More Sinister Than The IRS