My answering machine was blinking when I came home recently. I hit play, thinking Mom was returning my call.
"This is Officer Judy Smith from the Department of the Treasury," said an official-sounding recording. I was told I owed money. This was the final notice, and I was subject to arrest if I didn't comply. My heart started racing, even though I thought the message sounded fishy.
I dialed the number, which included Washington's 202 area code, and spoke to "Jack Wilson," who spoke with an accent. I asked about the message and he asked for my phone number. (I gave it to him.) Jack said the message was in reference to Kate Walter and that I was audited on my 2012 tax return and owed money.
Gotcha! I thought. I file my taxes under my full legal name. But I decided to play along. "Why wasn't I notified?" I asked. "This is the first time I'm hearing this."
"We tried to mail you several times but couldn't get into your building," he said.
"That's bull," I responded. "I have a doorman. There's no problem with access."
"It's a certified letter," he countered, "and can't be delivered without a signature."
"Then the mailman puts a notice in my box to pick it up at the post office," I said.
I repeatedly told the con man, "This is not how the IRS works." (I know how it works. I was audited in the 1980s.)
He kept saying, "Let me explain it to you."
"I want my accountant to handle this," I said. "I need the name and number of the person he should call."
Click. Jack was gone in less than five minutes.
I didn't fall for the scam but many people have.
CBS News reported this is the largest IRS impersonation phone scam in history -- with as many as 10,000 calls a week to residents around the country. Thousands of Americans have been scammed of more than $23 million in the past two years, according to the Treasury Department inspector general.
When I dialed the designated IRS 800 number to report this, the message box was full. I was directed to a website with a special section for this scam. I filled out the form, citing "Jack's" phone number, hoping it leads to a swift arrest.