In Which I Rather Embarrassingly Fall for a Scam

Before we go any farther: no, they didn’t get any money out of me; yes, I’m embarrassed, but this is good story fodder, and other people might as well hear it in case they get the same call.

I thought I knew about scammers. It doesn’t take much to make me hang up on someone, but IRS scammers? Oh, man, are they a different breed. They’re patient. They commit to the bit. They wait to ask for anything (at the 20 minute mark, when I hung up – spoiler alert – they still hadn’t asked me for any money).

Right. So, I get a call and they leave a message, saying my address is under investigation by the IRS, and can I call them back. First clue, not an 800 number – unfortunately, as I thought I was primed for it being a scam call, I must have let my guard down in some paradoxical way. I call back, all ready to hang up if I need to. The guy says he’s calling because I haven’t responded to notices sent by mail, and lists an old address. “No, I haven’t gotten any notices, that’s an old address,” say I. Well, did you file an address change? “Yes, absolutely, several times, it’s a very old address”. But did you file one with us? he asks. “Well, no, but – ”  Oh, you need to file form B7 with the IRS, ma’am. “But I filed at the Social Security office – ”

That’s when, very casually, in the middle there, he slides in the arrest warrant piece. At this point, whatever rational things my frontal lobe might have been thinking (things such as the very true thought that, “…the IRS doesn’t use local police and why the hell is this neither a local number nor an 800 number, wtf”) my limbic system went into overdrive (“FUCK, WE’RE BEING CHASED BY A BEAR”).

I try to breathe. “Did you say…arrest warrant?”
“Yes, ma’am. Have you received any calls from your local police department?”
“No…?” (“BEARS. BEARS EVERYWHERE. YOU’RE GOING TO DIE.”)
“Okay, well, let’s not focus on that now. We’ve got 72 hours to clear everything up, so let me just give you some information about the case. Do you have a pen and paper?”

He proceeds, with truly remarkable aplomb, to GIVE ME information for 20 minutes, thus breaking down the reasonable part of my mind as well as my limbic system, because of course he’s not asking me for anything, and – and this is actually kind of the best part, no matter how diabolical it is – saying “ma’am, I need you to calm down, I can’t help you if you don’t calm down” every time I call him on a bad fact, which, because it never works, OF COURSE ONLY MAKES EVERYTHING WORSE, and as he lists forms I was apparently supposed to have filed, I’m watching it unfold in my mind with some judge asking me incredulously, “and you really didn’t think you needed to let the IRS know about that?” I am freaked out of my mind, because literally every time I file my taxes and type in every little 1099 from Createspace Europe or whatever, I’m sure I’m going to miss something and now I have, I’ve missed notices and oh, my God, and he keeps telling me to calm down –

And then he made his fatal mistake. “Well, ma’am, you really should be working with an accountant. It doesn’t reflect very well on you that you’re not functional enough to file your taxes correctly.”

I hang up on him and burst into tears because now I’ve hung up on the IRS and that’s not going to reflect very well on my case, is it? As I explain the situation, through sobs, my husband says, confused, “But how could they not have the address?” “He said I needed to file a different form!” “But…you filed your taxes from this address. Of course they have your address.”

Pause. Hiccup-sob. “…Oh.”

So, long story short, no, absolutely not under investigation. I couldn’t calm down until I talked to someone at the IRS (they were actually super nice), I reported the phone number to the office of the Inspector General for Tax Affairs, and the guy who called me is serving as the model for a corrupt cop in my latest WIP, because I am still freaking impressed at the idea of purposefully using, “please calm down” as a way to keep freaking people out.

Le sigh. Another day, another scammer.

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