There are variations on IRS fake phone call scam, but most often, the potential victim receives a phone call (also referred to as a “robocall,” which is short for “robot call”). If the call is answered or picked up by an answering machine, a computer-generated voice will tell you that you are being sued by the IRS for back taxes owed. Here is a transcript of a call that I received of this nature:

“The reason for this call is the IRS, Internal Revenue Service, is filing lawsuit against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately on our department number.”

The number is provided, and if the target calls it, they will be connected to a person who has been trained in the fine art of scamming people, mostly through the subtle and not-so- subtle manipulation of their emotions. The scammer will tell the target that they are behind on their taxes, and if they don’t pay right away, they will be arrested by government agents. If people don’t resist this attempt to circumvent logic and common sense, they might follow the scammer’s instructions to obtain store gift cards or pre-paid debit cards and then read the numbers on these cards to the scammer. In effect, this transfers the money paid for the cards to the scammers.

Let’s look at how a person might respond emotionally versus logically.

Emotion: I owe money to a powerful government agency. Do I really want to be arrested? If that happens, I won’t be able to pay the money I owe and they might keep me in jail indefinitely.

Logic and common sense: If you owe the IRS money, they notify you by U.S. mail before any phone calls that might be made to you directly. If you have not received any of these letters, you probably don’t owe them money. And even if you did, the IRS will not accept payment in the form of a pre-paid debit card or gift card.

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