Bankruptcy expert Leon Bayer answers real-life questions.
I received the same threatening message three separate times on my home answering machine. The voice is strongly accented, loud, threatening, cruel, harsh, nasty, condemning, harassing, and then oddly, at the very end, almost kind and pleasant.
Here is the transcription – the punctuation is mine:
“Hi this is Melwyn Thatcher (name unclear due to accent) calling from the tax audit department of the Internal Revenue Service. The nature behind this voicemail is to make you aware about a situation. We have received a legal petition notice against your name concerning an illegal tax evasion, a tax fraud. Be aware that we are taking the matter to the federal (unclear word) courthouse and we’re about to issue a warrant for your arrest. But before we go ahead and do anything like that, if you need any further details relating to this case you can call us back on our call back number 888-393-2421. I repeat 888-393-2421. Again this is Melwyn. You have a great day here. Thank you very much.”
By the way, I do not owe the IRS any money. In fact, I am totally debt free. Is this a hoax, or something I should be worried about?
Very truly yours,
Should you be worried? Absolutely not.
I am so glad you didn’t return the phone call. If you had, THAT would be worrisome.
I have no doubt that many serious crimes are involved in the transmission of that message. You and probably thousands of other people are the intended victims of an outrageous consumer fraud scam. In fact, see IRS warns of pervasive phone scam.
Many of these fraudsters operate out of telephone boiler rooms in Eastern Europe and Southern Asia. Some are members of criminal gangs, others are funneling the money to fund international terrorism.
If you were to reply to this type of message, you would be badgered to pay a fictitious debt. Even if you refused to pay anything, the fraudster might still trick you into providing personal financial information and then later use this information to steal your identity. (Learn how to avoid identity theft.)
Some people do fall for these types of scam phone calls. Perhaps they have a guilty conscience about unfiled tax returns, or an old bank debt they assume has prompted the call.
You will probably receive more calls from this outfit. Like all telemarketers, they are working their phone list. The bottom line is this: Don’t call them back. If you answer when they call you, just hang up.
The Federal Trade Commission also recommends that you report the call to them using the FTC Complaint Assistant at www.FTC.gov. (Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.)
Leon Bayer is a Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney. He is a partner at Bayer, Wishman & Leotta, a California law firm specializing in bankruptcy. The opinions and advice in this blog post are from Mr. Bayer alone, and should not be attributed to Nolo. By answering a question on this blog, Mr. Bayer does not become your lawyer.