Paul Meloan – Vested Interest

It’s a brand new year, so it’s time for a new take on an old scam: people impersonating IRS agents attempting to coerce their victims into paying taxes supposedly owed.

I’ve read about these things for ages, but it finally struck home when I received an excited call this morning from my clients: the wife was calling me from her cell while the husband was on the home phone line with a Treasury Agent named Richard Collins.  Agent Collins, calling from 631-729-5843, claims my clients owe $6,930 in back taxes from 2010.  He also claims to have a warrant for my clients’ arrest, that agents are near their home now, and that the warrant will be served in the next hour.

My clients were to be arrested this afternoon unless, of course, some arrangement can be made.  “Agent Collins” instructed my client not to hang up, not to talk to anyone until the payment has been made, and began to give my client instructions on how to get a certified check to the “Treasury Department” that afternoon.

All of the above, of course, is complete and utter bullshit.

Scam artists prey on the culture of fear and distrust that many have for government, and few divisions of government are viewed with more fear and distrust than the IRS.  Even against that backdrop, I can tell you that my dealings with them on behalf of clients have always been professional and above-board.

I feel bad for my clients, because I know in the moment of the call the adrenaline and cortisol (the fight-or-flight instinct) gets stirred up in the brain, and it becomes difficult to think straight.  I feel grateful that they thought to call me immediately, and I could give them the info they needed to hang up on this parasite before any real damage occurred.

Sooner or later, almost everyone needs to have a conversation with the IRS.  Remember that the IRS will only mail you at your address of record; they do not make contact with you over the phone; they do not threaten people with arrest. We do not have debtors prisons in the US: owing the government money is not a crime (although not reporting income or knowingly making false statements in a tax return can be).

Do the thing that the scam-artist wants the least: remain calm, think straight, and hang up the phone.  The IRS doesn’t call.

Paul Meloan is the co-founder and co-managing member of Aegis Wealth Management, LLC, in Bethesda, Maryland USA. Before Aegis Paul was a practicing attorney as well as working in the tax practice of Ernst & Young, LLP.

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