It was a fairly typical Wednesday afternoon, meaning that I was trying to decide what I’d write about for the second column of the week, when the phone rang. A recorded voice on the other end said that the calling organization could prevent criminal charges and collection activities because of my business’ tax problems. All I had to do was press 1.
I thought about an email I’d received the previous week with similar wording and which was instantly dispatched to the bit bucket of scam emails. I wondered if I’d missed something, so I pressed 1. The man who answered said that he was with the office of tax relief services at the U.S. Treasury Department.
“We can prevent the IRS from arresting you and we can stop the collection services,” said the man, who identified himself as Rudy. By now I knew it was a scam, if only because the Internal Revenue Service already had all of my money, so I told “Rudy” that I didn’t owe any taxes. So he asked to talk to my accounting department so he could discuss my tax payments.
At this point, I told Rudy that I was reporting his call and I hung up, but not before he let loose a couple of choice invectives, all of which seemed to use the word “Trump,” repeatedly. Perhaps he was discussing someone playing Bridge, but I doubt it.
The earlier email, the one I’d sent into oblivion, had also carried a few clear threats towards my corporation, which is one reason I knew it was a scam, since I don’t actually run a corporation. But now it was coming clear.
What appears to be going on here is a new version of the popular tax scam that’s worked well in the past, but has been revised to prey on small businesses where there are only a few people filling all of the jobs and all of them are overworked—in other words, companies with no clear line of responsibilities. In those situations, it might be possible to convince someone senior at a company to simply pay what appeared to be a tax bill without checking it in a lot of detail.
While most of these scams come in via email or by phone, apparently it’s also possible for people pretending to be representatives of the IRS or the Treasury Department to appear at your company in person. However it happens, the folks at Treasury have a plan and in some cases remedies for these scams.
If a person claiming to be an agent of the Treasury Department or the IRS shows up at your offices, your first step should be to demand to see their official identification credentials. If you need to confirm that they’re real, you should email the Office of the Inspector General at OIGCounsel@oig.treas.gov with a description and any other information you can provide.