Maybe it’s the run-up to tax day here in the U.S., or possibly the extensive efforts to spread the word about prevention finally cutting into their profits, but the tax scammers have lately been dramatically increasing the “intimidation factor” with their intended targets. This came to light this week through a phone call from my cousin, Terri.
I’ve written before about the tax impostor scam, with a goofy scammer calling himself “Steve Martin” leaving messages on several friends’ voicemails urging them to “call immediately or face serious consequences.” As you may remember from an earlier episode of The Scammercast, they even called my co-host, Curtis, with his phony pitch. We even played the voicemail on the show!
Now, multiple reports have been coming my way about similar tax scammers heavily increasing the “intimidation factor.” Crooks use fear all the time in their toolbox of dirty tricks, but these calls have them threatening the victim with an officer coming to their home to arrest them and put them in jail for a minimum of 6 months on a federal tax evasion charge. Noteworthy is the allegation that the intended victim (Terri, in this case) had underpaid her taxes for 2012 by about $4000. Naturally a problem from a prior year makes the tax scam evergreen and not subject to expiration when tax day has come and gone.
More intimidating, however, was the way the scammer tried hard to shut down the victims’ questioning of discrepancies in the story with heightened threats of jail time. At one point the scammer said to Terri, “If you reach out to anyone about this you will receive 3 years in jail because you are violating the intent to cooperate.” Reaching out is, of course, the 3rd R of Scam Prevention.
The most frightening part, hands down, was when the scammer told Terri he had her address and verified it to her. He also said he had her cellphone number and could track whether or not she was going to the bank to get the required funds. Thankfully, she called her accountant from her work cellphone, and he told her that the IRS never makes calls like this. He also told her to go to her local police station, which she did, and the police took care of the problem.
Terri was quite shaken by this experience. I spoke with her the night this happened, and I could tell she was astounded at the level of sophistication and the hardball tactics the scammers used to almost get her to send them money. Ominously, this represents a new trend in the crooks’ arsenal of manipulative weapons they use against uninformed and unsuspecting people. As elders and others have gotten more aware of how to defeat them, the criminals evolve their methods.
We have to be better at recognizing it when they ramp up the intensity and respond with effective countermeasures. There were plenty of inconsistencies in the crooks’ story to Terri and the others, including at first having an outdated address for her and not knowing her present zip code. Listen for the things that don’t add up! Remember also:
Don’t fall for the fraudsters’ newest effort to steal from you or the elders you care about. Ignore the intimidation and HAMMER THE SCAMMERS!