The Day The Fake IRS Called Mom and Mark: Part I

posted in: Day In The Life 18
The Sanyo TAS 1000, dingy and creepy enough to feel appropriate here. Photo: Wikipedia.
The Sanyo TAS 1000, dingy and creepy enough to feel appropriate here. Photo: Wikipedia.


The quilt blocks I talked about the day before yesterday, they’ll be back. In fact, there’s a project on PaperGirl debuting soon that will use those and other blocks in a neat way. But for now, because I desperately feel like telling a story (for old times’ sake), I’m going to tell you a story. Doesn’t that sound good?

I was home in Iowa, sitting at the kitchen counter, surely with snack. Mark, my amazing stepdad, came in shaking his head.

“Marianne!” he called over his shoulder to the next room. “We’ve got big problems!”

This is something Mark says frequently, but it often just means he’s misplaced something. He’ll burst into a room and say, “Honey, we’ve got big problems: I can’t find the extra bag of mulch!” Or, “Honey, I’ve got big problems: The new stapler is not on my desk!” More often than not, the item will be found within an hour. It’s pretty adorable.

But that day, Mark seemed truly worried.

“There’s a message on the voicemail and… Well, I just don’t know what to make of it,” he said. My mother came into the kitchen to fix an English muffin and looked appropriately concerned, which is to say she did not look immediately concerned.

“It’s the IRS. They say we need to call them right away. I’m very concerned. Something about a fine and a missed payment? I can’t imagine that —”

My neck seized up and my fingers curled into claws. IRS? A fine? A missed payment? That was no IRS call. That was a scam call. I knew it instantly.

“Mark, Mark, I have to interrupt,” I said, interrupting him. “That’s not a real call from the IRA. It’s a scam. Do not call them back, Mark, whatever you do.”

That very week I had read an article about how bad — good? — the fake IRS and bank scam calls had gotten. Record numbers of them were being reported and record amounts of money were being taken from decent, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. Like Mom and Mark.

“Well, I’m glad to hear you say that,” Mark said. “I was suspicious, myself. If the IRS wants to get in touch with a person, they’re going to send a letter. That’s how I understand it.”

“Who wakes up and does that for a living?” Mom mom asked, chewing her muffin. “Who are these people?”

And then I had an idea: I would find out. And I would give ’em hell.

“Did they leave a callback number?” I asked, sliding off my barstool. I walked toward the phone on Mark’s desk. He nodded and showed me the post-it note where he had written down the mysterious phone number. I asked him if he would play me the message, too.

He played it. It was a robot voice. It sounded scary and real: a little too scary to actually be real, you know? The IRS will not contact you by phone — Mark is right that they will send you certified mail — but they will for sure not contact you by phone in a robot voice that says, with a threatening tone, “YOU MUST CALL BACK IMMEDIATELY OR BE SUBJECT TO FEDERAL PRISON.”

My blood boiled. I wanted to punish these swindlers, these low-lifes.

I looked at the number on the post-it and thought about my strategy. Should I simply call and cuss them out? That would feel great. Maybe I should scare them! Call and pretend to be the cops! I went online and found a real government website where you can report numbers like the one I had in my hand and I planned to officially report it — but not until I had a little fun.

[To be continued tomorrow.]