If you’re in the US you may have heard about IRS phone scammers, of whom there is a rash at the moment. I had one of these calls a week ago, then saw that I had a message from an unknown number this morning. In the spirit of irritable inquiry, I called it back to see if it was the same thing. Literally nobody ever wants to speak to me usually, so it seemed like a safe bet. It was, and — if you don’t know already — here’s the bottom line: 

Some people don't realize that other people are people too

Specifically, the scammers explain you’ve defrauded the IRS (or at least not paid enough tax, maybe by mistake) and that action against you is already under way. They will have your phone number and address, and will ask for confirmation of the last four digits of your social. The fact that you can skirt around this by saying you’re not comfortable giving such information over the phone is an early sign the whole thing is bullshit. But they evidently also have your phone number on file, and will be able to call you by name if you’ve called them back after a message. It’s pretty convincing. 

Over the course of really quite a long time they’ll then scare you about the fraud charges against you and their impact (potential arrest, confiscation of property, destroyed credit rating), and finally — if you seem like you’re buying in, and want to resolve the problem — kick you up the ladder to a Manager. As you presumably seem like a hot prospect by this point, this second guy is even more polished and convincing, and he will keep you on the line — and in fact insist that you stay on it, as the call is allegedly being Federally recorded and may be used in evidence in the courthouse in which you’ll end up if the situation is not resolved. 

Over the course of fifteen minutes (with huge amounts of detail and semi-convincing jargon, and the quoting of his “Federal Badge Number” and private phone line) he’ll explain that because of your prior good behaviour, he’ll be able to take your corner in this instance and hopefully call off the criminal charges and arrest warrant PROVIDING you pay the outstanding tax (plus legal fees and fine) today. Calling off a pending warrant requires special arrangements, it would seem, including routing fees in rather specific ways. Via, in my case, a Best Buy Gift card, with whom the IRS apparently has an arrangement. I’ve heard they also have an arrangement with CVS. Who knows, maybe they also have one with Safeway, and Al’s Muffler-a-Rama and Lube Shop.

It all sounds ridiculous, but these guys have a good script and keep up the pressure, and I can absolutely see an elderly or stressed-out person falling for it. I let the guy run for 25 minutes, feeding him where necessary — I was bored, and also pissed off because I hate these people — and then asked what would happen if, when the Government Representative turned up at my door to take possession of the Best Buy Gift Certificate for $9218.28, I punched him in the face. The guy on the other end told me I’d get a cattle prod up my ass. So I then had a concerted try at seeing how many short Anglo Saxon words I could pack into one sentence, before he cut me off.  

For good measure, because I was pretty riled by this point, I called back half an hour later and let a different guy get five minutes into the same process, before asking him if his family knew he defrauded old people for a living. He suggested that I fuck off. 

Why am I telling you this? Because these people are the scum of the earth — about once a week I have to explain to my octogenarian father that he can safely ignore the man calling from Microsoft to tell him he’s got a virus that can be fixed for a fee. A phone scam may seem trivial in the face of the rest of the dumpster fire, but it's not — because it's part of the the same thing, and it's everything that is wrong with everything. Liars, cheats, thieves, people who regard distant others and strangers as nothing but marks to be fleeced. People who don't understand that other people's problems and fears and anxieties and life experiences are real, or that the money they steal can't now be used to pay for somebody's education, bills or food. People who are prepared to ignore the humanity of others in search of an easy buck, a cheap win, a bitter and nasty score. I’m crowd-sourcing the resistance to these low-level, bargain-bucket assholes.

The lines change regularly, but below is the number I got called on this morning. If you’re bored and live in the US, feel free to waste some of their time this afternoon — blocking the lines so they can’t get through to someone who might actually fall for it. Let's share these numbers, and try to show the assholes of the world that we really are done taking their shit.

253 237 5124

4 Comments