Pam* is in her late seventies, a widow, and a retired Rhode Island public school teacher of over 30 years. She’s smart, loves to read, and enjoys getting together with close friends. She could be your next-door neighbor, and yet, Pam was a victim of an IRS scam the week before Christmas.
A man called Pam on her cell phone stating that he was an IRS agent and she owed the IRS $3,800. He gave her his name, IRS badge number, and her case file number. He knew her name and where she lived. Pam panicked. She believed that the caller was from the IRS because she did owe the IRS money for past taxes, but was on a payment plan and was up to date on her payments.
The caller instructed Pam to pay the amount immediately or her house and automobile would be taken away and the police would come and take her to jail. He sounded legitimate and also somewhat sympathetic. He said if she paid $2,000 of her debt immediately, he would make the case to his supervisor to write off the remainder. He instructed Pam to go to a convenience store in her town and purchase prepaid gift cards and read him the numbers. He also advised her not to tell anyone. Pam did as the caller instructed and thought the issue was resolved. The next day, the man called again and said his supervisor demanded the balance must be paid in full. Pam went to a gas station and again purchased prepaid gift cards and read the account numbers to the caller. That afternoon, the man called for a third time and now demanded payment for an out of court restitution certificate, legal fees, and an arrest warrant cancellation charge. For the first time, Pam felt suspicious. She told him that she needed more time. He called her back a number of times that day and the next day, but Pam did not answer his calls. In the meantime, Pam confided in her family and trusted advisors. She notified her bank, the local police, the Consumer Protection Unit at the RI Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission. Unfortunately, Pam was a victim of a scam. Her money was gone, with very little
chance that the thief would be found or her money recovered.
There are a few things to note:
1. The IRS NEVER calls to demand immediate payment. They first mail a notice to any taxpayer who owes taxes. The taxpayer then has an opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say he/she owes. Also, the IRS does not threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement officers to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
2. If someone requests you to make a payment by purchasing a prepaid gift card, it is a scam. Hang up!
What to do if you are a victim of a scam:
1. Report the scam to authorities.
2. Share your story with family and friends to help prevent another scam.
How to prevent being a victim of a financial scam:
1. Do not give out personal banking information, credit card number, social security number, or other personal information to someone you didn’t contact.
2. Shred anything containing personal information.
3. Resist high-pressure sales tactics: always ask for time to make a decision. Criminals want you to make a bad decision quickly.
Financial elder abuse is taking money or property from a senior without their permission. Identity thieves and other criminals target the elderly and the money they have saved for retirement. The criminals pose as trusted individuals and persuade the senior to give away their money, property, or valuable personal financial information. Be safe and be alert and protect yourself from becoming a victim of a financial scam.
*Pam’s name was changed to protect her privacy.
Beth Carroll is a CPA and a daily money manager. Her company, Cornerstone Money Management, LLC, helps seniors in their homes with billpay, financial organization and cash flow management. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-323-4895.