AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – John Brunetto got the phone call Thursday morning and the electronic voice said, “This call is officially a final notice from the IRS—Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you,” and Brunetto was instructed to call a phone number with a Seattle, Washington area code.
Those words are enough to scare just about anyone, even people who should know better: the IRS is calling and they are about to sue you, but the Amherst retiree knew the IRS never calls on the phone, you get your notice in the mail.
“I said I don’t do any transactions by phone. I said I keep getting all these different phone calls. Just mail me some paperwork, and they hung up on me.”
John also knew the IRS has limitations when they go after back taxes, “They said I owed them from 2005–back from 2005–which was not right because 2005 was a long time ago. It is only usually 7 years.”
While John Brunetto knew better, Rev. Al Cadenhead of North Carolina fell prey to a very expensive scam when he got a similar call.
“She was informing me they were filing a warrant for my arrest,” recalled the retired church official, “I am afraid at that point.”
Cadenhead followed the scammers instructions, giving up $16,000 in untraceable pre-paid debit card transactions. The North Carolina church leader is one of the case studies cited in a Consumer Reports article, focusing on elder fraud.
The article reports America’s senior citizens lose billions of dollars a year to scammers, and Consumer Reports’ Tobie Stanger said their emphasis is on protecting our seniors. Realizing the IRS does not call to sue you, would be a good start.
“There are ways that seniors can protect themselves. The most important thing is not to answer a phone call if the Caller ID is from a number you don’t recognize,” said Stanger, adding, “Seniors have retirement savings under their control, and scammers know that, and go after them.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, himself has been to Buffalo and repeated the warning, the IRS does not call to sue you, arrest you, or garnish your wages, they send a notice by certified mail.
Koskinen said, if the IRS calls you without prior contact by mail, hang up, it is not the IRS.