Today as I was leaving the building for an appointment, I met a woman who was at our locked employee entrance trying to get in because she clearly thought it was our front entrance. She turned and walked out so I ran to catch up with her in the parking lot. She was a middle aged woman whose accent gave her away as a person likely not born in the US. She was so upset she was shaking. In one hand she had her cell phone and in the other I could see that she had a bank envelope of the kind that you get when you withdraw money. On the envelope various notes were written. I asked her how we could help and she nearly burst into tears. She said she had a gotten a call from the IRS telling her that she had to send them money to settle a matter. I asked whether she had sent anything yet and she said no. She said the man on the phone threatened her that someone would come to her home if she didn’t send the money right away. While we were talking her phone rang and she said it was him so I answered it. He said he was from the US Treasury and wanted to know who I was. I asked his name and he gave it to me as “Alex.” He also had an accent that suggested he might be from the part of the world where the victim was from. We went back and forth on the phone about who he was and who I am. He did say he was from the IRS and I said I didn’t believe him. He told me that if I didn’t put the woman back on the phone and she didn’t send the money he would call the Sheriff’s Office to come and get her. At that point, I told him who I was and he hung up immediately.
I was very happy that she came to us before she sent any money. Many of these scams are coming from offshore meaning outside of the US borders. Sometimes they will even “spoof” a phone number on your caller ID to make it look like it is a local number. Often they represent themselves to be the Immigration Service and threaten to deport people or Treasury or (my personal favorite) the US Department of Grants. The Department of Grants call I got myself. I couldn’t resist having a little fun with this guy until he hung up on me.
The reason they direct their victims to go and buy Green Dot cards is because once a person gives them the number on the back of an activated Green Dot card, the money is gone and we can’t get it back–that is why they love them. And the money can be immediately sent anywhere in the world.
It bears repeating — no credibly entity, governmental or otherwise, would call you on the phone and ask you to pay with a Green Dot card. The IRS doesn’t call people on the telephone. If they have a problem with you they’ll send you a letter. Same with most other governmental entities.
Beware of who calls you with what story. It seems that they often target older people and they call repeatedly once they think they have a fish (so to speak) on the line. Just hang up on them. And if they keep calling–one person told me recently that he got 60 calls in a 24 hr period–call us. You can find us at 248-370-9444.
Here is a good article on the subject: Green Dot Card Scams