The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is probably one of the most feared organizations in the United States. Even the thought of being audited because of a possible error on a tax return is enough to keep anyone up at night. This is a big reason as to why scams related to the IRS often yield huge returns. When Americans’ get a phone message from the IRS saying they owe back taxes, it is something you take seriously.
Playing up on the fear most people have of the IRS, scams relating to claims of back taxes being owed rake in millions. It seems in many cases; people do not take the time to investigate the claims. The idea being if one owes back taxes you pay them immediately to avoid further issues including the dreaded audit. This is exact attitude scammers are banking on.
Playing on the American fear of the IRS has turned into big business. Business is so lucrative that there are call centers outside of the United States that hire full-time employees to perpetuate the lie. In a recent expose about the booming business in India, a call center handling upwards of 50,000 voicemails a day from the IRS came to light.
A young worker by the name of Jayesh Dubey explained the inner workings of the call center in Mumbai, India. According to Dubey:
“The owner used to churn 50,000 voicemails every day. We used to get around 10,000 to 15,000 callbacks. When we picked up the call, we’d pretend to be the IRS officers. We started like, ‘Hi, this is Officer Adam Smith. Thank you for calling the Internal Revenue Service. How May I Help you?”
With people already on edge about even hearing from the IRS, the fact that the center seemed legitimate only added to their anxiety. Workers like Dubey were able to trick callers into thinking they owed the IRS large sums of money. An added incentive to pay the amount off as soon as possible might include some discounted rate or even a veiled threat of further action. As Dubey gained experience talking to people about the need to make payments, he enjoyed lots of success on the job. He shared that this job paid very well compared to other local jobs. Many younger workers took the job with the hope of making quick money.
As Dubey was able to take more and more calls, he began to feel sick about the panic many people felt trying to solve their IRS debt. According to Dubey:
“People used to want to cry on the call and then I started feeling bad. They used to take it from their neighbors, friends and everyone. It was really not good.
The young man decided to leave the call center a short time before it was raided by local authorities. Investigators were able to tie the call center to a larger operation that scammed millions of dollars from those thinking they owed the IRS money.
Even though many countries have some form of income tax, the scam often only targets those living in the United States. After listening to so many upset people struggle to figure out how to pay off this debt, Dubey cautioned others who may become a victim:
“I would just say to the Americans that in the whole world, only people in America get most of the scam calls. Please don’t pay any money for the calls. That’s what I want to tell them.”
Due to a large number of people falling this type of scam, the IRS has taken steps to inform the public about the realities of debt collection with the IRS. One huge red flag most people do not know about the types of messages that these call centers left about IRS debt is the fact the IRS does not make the initial contact via a phone message. If there is, in fact, a valid reason for the IRS to make contact, they will always send a letter in the mail first. For the most part, these letters will arrive via certified letter.
In the letter from the IRS, you may be directed to call their direct phone number. A quick online search turns this number up as well, so it quickly becomes apparent that the letter and the required follow-up are in fact legit.
While even a real contact from the IRS can be scary, they also remind consumers that they are never going to just demand a payment over the phone. There is always a certain level of due process to be followed as well as a variety of payment options. The fact that the call center in India pushed so hard to immediate payments should be enough to trigger most people to investigate further.