What Just Happened? (attempted phone scam?)

So I just had an interesting experience. I got home from work to find I had four voicemails. I normally put my phone on plane mode during the day for a variety of reasons (shitty coverage anyway, so it saves battery … I digress), but I didn’t even see a phone number having called me during the day - just the four voicemails. Each one was a garbled mess and I could only make out a few words and a phone number. However, the words I could make out were “IRS” “tax fraud” “lawsuit filed against you” … so, I’m kind of freaking out.

Here’s the part where I started to get concerned it was a scam, though: each of the four voicemails had a different phone number to call. I tried the first one and it said the number had been disconnected. So I tried the last number and got through. No official type phone bank you’d expect if you called the IRS, just a very foreign sounding, “IRS.”

So I talk to this woman, sort of, I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. I kept saying, “please tell me what this is about,” but she just plowed ahead. I did confirm my name and address but that’s it – even that has me a little concerned. But she got to a point where she said, “please get a piece of paper and a pen,” and then the line went dead. I was still on the low side of thinking I was being scammed, so I called back. I got a different person. This time a man who I could understand more clearly, but who did have an accent, for what it’s worth. Same routine – please tell me what this is about – name and address, please get a piece of paper and a pencil.

At this point I was in full-on, “what the fuck am I thinking mode.” I shined him on a little as he started to rattle off his ID badge number or something and I hopped onto the computer real quick to look up the phone number I had just called. Just as he was telling me that his name was Robert Miller (he couldn’t pronounce the L’s in Miller) I read this on Bing regarding that number:

“Called claiming to be in trouble with the IRS and going to Fed Court if I don’t call their number then they ended with have a nice day hope you don’t go to jail”

So I let my inner cynic take over and said, “I know this is bullshit,” and hung up.
So … did I A) avert a horrible scamming or B) hang up on the IRS and I’m fucked?

(Bolding/large case mine.)

Any real contact from the IRS would be in written, mailed correspondence. They wouldn’t call you, telling you they’re on the way to arrest you, giving you time to skedaddle, & the real IRS won’t request payment in itunes gift cards (my favorite) or any other debit card or GreenDot/MoneyGram/Western Union payment over the phone, either.
Possibly A.1, in that you averted a scam but you returned their call; therefore they’ll put you on their ‘real’ phone # list & I suspect you’ll get more calls; maybe from the IRS, maybe from some other scam. (Hint: if is’t your son/daughter/grandchild supposedly in jail & in need of bail money, address them by a name that none of your offspring have’ if they answer, “Yeah, it’s me, your grandson Jack Batty, Grandpop.” you know it’s bullshit.)

One of two possibilities for the lack of call but v-mails.

  1. Signal wasn’t strong enough to take call but did receive the email when you moved into an area of better signal.
  2. That phone # is in your block/send to v-mail list which is why your phone didn’t ring.

I am a Bureaucrat.
Nearly 25 years of experience.

Nothing is important, until it is on paper.

Did you answer “Yes” to any question?

Do not do that, esp. if your name and address are part of the conversation.

My wife got a voice mail from one of these scammers, and she asked me if I thought it was something to worry about. I said :
A) The IRS will NEVER call you first. US Mail (registered if they are really serious) all the way.
B) The IRS is seriously unlikely to say they are going to call “The local cops” on you.
C) The IRS isn’t going to use a synthesized voice to call you - it will be some underpaid, tired-sounding person.

I can’t believe you haven’t heard about this scam before. I’d suggest you Google phone scams so that you’ll be prepared next time.
Interesting that there is an accent. They’re probably working out 9f India like the Windows Company scum.
You should get NoMoRobo for your phone (it costs something, free for landlines) to block them. After we got it for our landline no more messages from these assholes.

The only reason to call them back is to dump any stored anger at them. I actually got a Windows company guy mad at me. It is quite restorative, and they all deserve any abuse you give them.

Here’s the best way to handle it:


Get them to talk to Lenny:

A bit more detail: There are people who have computers which run open-source PBX software (Private Branch Exchange, what large institutions use to implement internal phone systems, with extensions and the like), usually Asterisk, who run a simple program which is just a sequence of recordings and just enough logic to wait for the line to go quiet before playing the next recording in the sequence.

The recording is of someone pretending to be a slightly deaf, mostly… mentally absent… old British man called Lenny. He’s thick as two planks, to use a Britishism, but completely affable and even-tempered. However, he can send telemarketers and phone scammers right up a wall. Some of them keep him on the line for most of an hour. Sometimes longer. Keep in mind: Lenny is the moral equivalent of a tape player held up to the telephone, except it waits for you to stop making noise before playing the next part of the tape. There’s no hint of AI here.

Needless to say, there’s a whole subreddit (Reddit forum) devoted to recordings of assholes calling poor Lenny and trying to get him to buy things or become a scam victim.

More technical information about Lenny, including how to install the software and sound files. And full source code to Lenny’s brain. It’s five lines of code.

Allow me to present Project Mayhem.

Well, good. I’m feeling much better. Except now I’m more pissed off that I let it get to me so much. I had only listened to the voice mail - I hadn’t called yet - when I headed out to go see about a new tattoo. I only have two tattoos as it is and I’d never been to the place and the kid I was talking too didn’t seem too engaged and I was totally absent minded because of this whole phone thing so I ended up just taking his card and leaving. Now I feel like kind of an idiot because it wasn’t until I got back that I made the call back to the scammers. What I feel much better about is the exact phrasing I used to end the call: “Alright, I just looked you up on the internet and I know this is fucking bullshit. I’m hanging up. Fuck you.”

It’s not often that F-bombs are utilized in the precise way in which they are intended; one must savor those moments.

I’d almost feel they deserved a $25 gift card for making me laugh if they asked for this with a straight face.

Why would you call a scammer back?

Because at that point I didn’t know it was a scammer.

Please review the information in post#2 so you don’t get scammed again.

Yeah, I already did that, right after I posted post #1. Thanks for the tip.

For future reference: it’s always a scammer.

I spent a few seconds googling. It’s real enough that there area notices about this on the websites of the IRS, Apple, & the FTC…& probably more if one looks just a wee bit.

Good tip. We’re in the middle of a bit of IRS mess ourselves, and all we’ve gotten from them in one letter. How would the IRS have your phone number anyway? It’s not on any tax forms you submit.

Look at page 2 of Form 1040, near the bottom where it says “Sign Here” toward the right end of the first line.

And the IRS is allowed to use phone directories and the internet.