What Happens When You Play Along With An IRS Scammer

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Oct 19, 2016
Phone Fraud

Most people, if they get a scam phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, will simply hang up. Not this writer from Vox, though: instead, he decided to see how far this scam actually went using some tricks of his own to convince the man on the other end that he was actually going to give him money. The counter-scam, apparently, came from having been called several times from people who unconvincingly told him that they were from the IRS and that he would be arrested if he didn't pay back taxes. The third time he was called, the writer got frustrated and decided to fool them just like they were trying to fool him. He pretends to get in his car and go to the store to pick up the iTunes gift cards they were demanding to pay the $6,000 he didn't actually owe. He was at his desk the whole time, though, reading serial numbers from gift cards he found using Google image search. It didn't stop there, though: after they accepted the card numbers, he called them back for confirmation that he indeed would not get arrested, considering he "gave" them only a fraction of what he "owed." The man on the other end said the balance was forgiven and that, indeed, all taxes were forgiven for the next 24 years. Then, when he complained, he was told he was forgiven for life. 

While it can be difficult to imagine people falling for this, he noted that a major component of the scam is the authoritative tone that the scammers take on. He said it reminded him of the times he'd been chided by authority figures, whether they be teachers, police or even his parents. He pointed out that people, even smart people, can sometimes find themselves cowed by authority figures, and those who impersonate them convincingly. 

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