I haven’t received a phone call from a telemarketer pushing some silly contraption or service in quite some time. At least, I haven’t received calls from a living, breathing person. I am, however, assailed by pre-recorded messages urging me to claim a free cruise or free vacation to some idyllic paradise. How quaint.
The problem often lies with the words frauds and crooks uses to hook people or frighten them into action.
The most recent con to emerge in recent years involves a group of shady call centers impersonating officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). I first received a call from one of these goons about a year ago. I was caught off guard. I was politely greeted by a woman of Indian descent claiming to be an IRS official. Not being in a particularly skeptical mood, I allowed her to continue. I was promptly told that I was in serious debt to the IRS which had to be paid immediately lest local law enforcement would issue a warrant out in my name. It was the perfect combination of words to make one shit a brick. Debt, law enforcement, and warrant triggered utter panic and dread that made my heart sink. To make a long story short, the call ended with me believing I was to be imminently incarcerated for owing the IRS money.
How could this have happened?
What am I going to do? I can’t go to jail.
I don’t have $2500.
Fuck. My. Life.
I called my father, having shat a few more bricks and obviously in great distress, and he quickly (and rightly) dismissed the whole situation and told me to get a grip. He assured me I would have been given ample time and notification to contend with such a debt before drastic measures would have taken place.
Since that day, I’ve always been prepared.
This whole scam is given the cute designation “financial fraud.” I feel another f-word properly captures the essence of what is happening here. It’s simply called: getting fucked over. And the biggest problem I have with the situation is: why isn’t knowledge of it more widespread?
In October, the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted 61 individuals and entities—scattered across the United States and India—for their involvement in a multinational call center scheme which robbed more than 15,000 victims (mostly immigrants and the elderly) of hundreds of millions of dollars. Watch the DOJ unseal the charges here. As of May 18th, four defendants have pleaded guilty.
Just consider the charges: conspiracy to commit identity theft, false personation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud, and money laundering. These charges aren’t frivolous. That’s why the DOJ has assigned itself the crucial task of locating victims and keeping the public informed. But where is the media coverage? (That was somewhat rhetorical since I’m completely aware the main focus is on circus surrounding the Trump administration.) Where are the letters in the mail urging me to be on the lookout or the sensationalist news broadcasts?
The DOJ’s video currently has 6,395 views! The only thing more frightening, you ask? I had to click the “next” button during a Google search… twice… before I was able to find a widespread reputable news outlet that had covered this issue. The IRS published a list of tips in 2015 to help consumers avoid scams. They even commissioned YouTube videos, in English and Spanish, and a Tax Scams podcast (also available in both languages). Both videos have a combined 123,606 views. I’m sure if Kim Kardashian made a YouTube video warning taxpayers about scams, it would hit a million views in no time at all.
Yesterday, I received another call from this goons. I was prepared this time. I was calm and composed. Despite their capacity to use the words Internal Revenue Service and there is a warrant out for your name, they have trouble with comprehension. My English was quite plain and terse. “Go fuck yourself!” Please be careful and warn others about these unsophisticated criminals of the lowest order still trying their cheap scams. Report these crooks to the Treasury Inspector General for the Tax Administration (TIGTA) or to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And I hope you’ll join me in telling these criminals to go fuck themselves.