When Scammers go Fishing in Mama Bear Country
8:15 a.m. Baby Girl and I had just started to wake up. This is my favorite time of day. She's smiling, giggling, snuggly. We're warm and cozy in bed together. The day is nothing but possibilities. And then the phone rings. The home phone. Which nobody ever calls and we have only so I can call 911 if there were ever an emergency.
"This is a notice that the IRS have filed a lawsuit against you. Please call 207-693-8051 to resolve this matter immediately."
Hubby and I do owe money from our 2015 tax returns, but a lawsuit? It must be a mistake, I think to myself, as I dial the number.
The man who answers says his name is Jack Brown. He has a thick accent that leads me to believe he wasn't born Jack Brown, which alerts me something is amiss. He is very angry, which also sets my Spider Sense tingling. He is going to explain everything to me, and instructs me not to interrupt. He says that the IRS has found "fraudulent details" in my tax records dating back to 2010. That I owe $14,950.
And that I am about to be arrested. That the police will be at my doorstep within 30 minutes. "They will arrest you. You will spend the next five days in jail. They will take custody of your child."
This is when I know I'm being scammed. I could hang up. But I'm a stay-at-home-mom with nothing else to do today, so I decide to have a little fun. Also, he threatened to take my child away from me. Or at least tried to scare me with that threat. Cue the Mother Bear music.
I ask him a few questions, keeping him on the line. I ask him to repeat the big long spiel he gave me. Then he says, "Would you like to avoid this lawsuit and resolve this matter today?"
I smile. "Oh, of course I would!"
He transfers me to his supervisor, who immediately asks if I have the funds available in my bank. I tell him that I absolutely do. That $15,000 is no problem and I certainly don't want to be arrested and have my child taken away from me.
He asks for my debit card or bank account.
I answer, "I just wanted to wait until I heard you actually ask for that over the phone. The IRS is quite clear they will never ask for payment over the phone. What you're doing is illegal -"
He hangs up. Not surprisingly. But I have a phone number. So I call back. And Jack Brown answers.
I verbally tear him several new holes. "How DARE you threaten my child?! How can you do this to people?! What is wrong with you?!"
Jack Brown hangs up on me. Again, not surprising. But we're just getting started.
I share the number on Facebook and Twitter. Friends share the Facebook post.
I call and hang up. Repeatedly. Others call and press random numbers until Jack Brown hangs up. My friends told me they even heard him pressing numbers back.
This makes me deliciously, wickedly happy.
I got creative. When Jack Brown answered, I played Row Row Your Boat on my keypad. I Googled how to do that.
You can find anything on Google.
I even let Baby Girl make a call.
This one is my favorite. I can hear Jack Brown on the other end getting frustrated. Good times. Finally, I go to https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml and report them. I have no idea if Jack Brown and his cohorts will be punished, but I do know two things: 1. Every minute they wasted on a call with me or my friends was a minute they weren't threatening people and trying to steal their money. 2. You never go fishing in Mama Bear country.