Monday, April 11, 2016

IRS Impersonator Scam

I received a phone call last year from some scammers impersonating the Internal Revenue Service.

The first call was actually a recorded message, telling me that the IRS had been trying to contact me. The recording informed me that I was the defendant in a lawsuit the IRS was filing against me, I was then notified to call 202-697-9892 to speak to them about it.

I had heard about this scam already, but didn't know the details. I have to admit that I was more than a little afraid. and I had momentarily forgotten that the IRS doesn't notify you of impending legal action against you by calling you on the phone. They always notify by by mail.

Calling them, I spoke to a man calling himself Jordan Belfort and he rattled-off some numbers as his Operator ID. He already knew my mailing address, which made me think the call was legit, as well as the fact that my Caller ID showed the call as originating from Washington DC.

"Jordan" spoke with a great deal of authority over the phone, though his accent made him difficult to understand. When he told me exactly how much I owed, I began to get suspicious. The amount was not particularly large and seemed too small for the IRS to even bother with a lawsuit. Sure, for outright fraud, they'll have you arrested and for money owed, they can seize your assets, but that's usually for large amounts, like in the tens of thousands of dollars. For a few thousand dollars (they claimed I owed about $4000), they'd usually try to set-up a payment plan, if you can't pay it all at once. With interest and penalties attached, of course.

"Jordan" advised me to hire a criminal defense attorney and that is where my doubts began to solidify. Why hire a criminal defense attorney for a civil matter? These are two different fields of Law. While the IRS can and has put people in prison for tax evasion, putting someone like me away wouldn't get them their money. The IRS would actually lose money in the costs of a trial, not to mention my incarceration and they'd never get the money, since I have few assets.

So, I began to get confused, since a real IRS agent would know the difference between criminal and civil matters and why all the fuss over a few grand?

Finally, I decided to see what his reaction would be if I offered to pay it and simply avoid a trial altogether. He then told me that I could settle it out of court, but warned of  my arrest if I didn't.  When I told him that I would contact my attorney and then call him back, he told me right away that, if I hung up, the system would flag my number and a warrant would be issued for me, resulting in Federal and State law enforcement being notified to arrest me.

Okay, the Feds I understand. The IRS is a Federal agency, but why would the Hawaii State Sheriffs get involved? This wasn't a State issue.

In addition to confusion between civil and criminal matters, "Jordan" was obviously unaware of the separation of jurisdictions between State and Federal law enforcement. Neither the Hawaii State Sheriffs or Honolulu Police Department would arrest me for owing money to the IRS. It would be the Treasury agents job.

When I confronted him over the apparent rush, he became defensive. As I calmed-down, I remembered the IRS scam that has been going-on for quite awhile. As I said, I didn't know much about it and I should have. That's on me.

However, I did learn a few things: they have my name, address and telephone number. While their having my name and phone number didn't alarm me, the fact that they have my physical address was more than little scary. They seemed to also know a bit of my tax history. While these could have been guesses, they were disturbingly close and makes me wonder if hackers had infiltrated the IRS database, stole files and sold them on the black market.

I finally told "Jordan" that I believed him to be one of the scammers I had been hearing about, since he wasn't acting like any IRS agent I've ever met. He got very quiet, assuming the jig was up and said "Okay." before hanging-up on me.

I should have Googled the phone number before calling, but the call came at just the right time of my workday when I am most stressed-out and the call pushed me over the edge. Finding confirmation of my suspicions online, I learned that this phone number has been used many times over the past year to carry out this scam. I called the IRS Inspector General to file a report. I also blocked the scammers' number, so they couldn't call me again.

There are dozens of phone numbers associated with this scam. I have done just a little bit of searching and here is a list of what I've found so far:

  • 201-406-0000
  • 202-754-8420
  • 202-766-9713
  • 202-580-8150
  • 202-506-9828
  • 202-492-8816
  • 202-468-5896
  • 202-459-1993
  • 202-413-8901
  • 202-640-0113
  • 202-751-1163
  • 202-320-3853
  • 202-470-2879
  • 202-697-9197
  • 202-864-1791
  • 202-800-5631
  • 202-470-0142
  • 202-657-5868
  • 202-506-9044
  • 202-239-5947
  • 202-697-9892
  • 202-803-4318
  • 205-315-6049
  • 206-317-9184
  • 206-462-5024
  • 206-488-5864
  • 206-451-3624
  • 206-347-2217
  • 206-319-6368
  • 206-319-2965
  • 206-488-6870
  • 206-204-5553
  • 206-201-2024
  • 206-488-7405
  • 206-488-7807
  • 206-495-9583
  • 206-866-5895
  • 206-905-9687
  • 206-922-6126
  • 213-141-5163
  • 216-242-1287
  • 240-523-3767
  • 305-432-9583
  • 305-713-1042
  • 305-676-5752
  • 315-704-1315
  • 347-783-6863
  • 347-349-5244
  • 347-944-1193
  • 352-453-1081
  • 360-359-7712
  • 360-209-8907
  • 360-200-6829
  • 360-347-1794
  • 360-851-4838
  • 412-203-0114
  • 415-800-4078
  • 415-358-1618
  • 415-900-4372
  • 415-937-6881
  • 509-643-4382
  • 520-955-6201
  • 605-550-4956
  • 605-440-3495
  • 619-548-2875
  • 619-324-4087
  • 646-740-0186
  • 716-206-3218
  • 757-254-0365
  • 760-269-4504
  • 773-786-9513
  • 773-796-4967
  • 802-766-1834
  • 904-210-2543
  • 917-310-1424
  • 989-858-2734
This list of numbers used by scammers is certainly not complete and it is likely that more numbers are being used everyday. Keeping a list like this current would be impossible.

If you've been contacted by these scammers, you can report them to the Internal Revenue Service by using the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting link.

Duane Browning
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