Tuesday, January 8, 2019

‘Tis the season – for scams

Now that we’re a week or so into 2019 there are always things you can count on upon beginning a new year.

A sudden flood of people joining health clubs, longer than usual lines at stores specializing in organic and farm-to-table foods and a surge in the downloads of financial calculators as to hopefully better save and budget money.

You know what else?

Scams – whether electronic, snail mail or via the phone.
At the tail end of last week, I received in order: an email from my bank (with a black and white logo I may add) warning me that my personal information had been lost and I needed to re-enter my account numbers and just for added precaution, my Social Security number as well. Next, came a call from someone purporting to be a representative of a collection agency saying that I have a $2,000 outstanding debt and face serious prosecution if I don’t pay up immediately. For my convenience they could offer me a pre-paid card and my record would remain clear.

Not done yet, a snail mail alert warned me that my credit card has been compromised and I needed to call a 1-800 number and give them all the pertinent details – including of course my account information.

Wow – scams via all three available lines of contact. That is, in full disclosure, a personal record for me.

Which brings me to today’s topic as we head into this year’s filing season– the annual IRS phone scam. For the past four years, I’ve gotten voice mail messages claiming that IRS agents are about to arrest me for unpaid taxes. I could of course, avoid handcuffs and a lengthy prison sentence if I just wired them monies owed.

As someone who has been involved with the accounting profession for nearly 20 years, I know what a sham these calls are – but it’s still astonishing to me how many people fall for them on an annual basis. I read somewhere that some poor senior citizen out west was conned out of nearly $10,000 on just such a ruse.

First, remember the IRS never calls, they conduct their correspondence through snail mail and they always give you a chance to dispute a claim. You will never get a call from someone obviously in Mumbai or some other foreign hinterlands claiming to be from the IRS and threatening you to become a guest of the government.

I usually hang up when they call, but maybe one of my resolutions for 2019 is to see how far I can carry the conversation without laughing. Thus far, my record is just over one minute. 

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