PhotoImagine arriving home and finding a message on your answering machine (some of us still have them) telling you to call a certain phone number -- or else!

I don't have to try hard to imagine as it happened to me this past week.

A robo-caller informed me that I was the subject of an enforcement action regarding tax fraud. This message even contained a docket number and warned that if I didn't call the provided phone number as soon as possible, court action would be taken or – even worse -- I would be arrested.

I must admit that my first impulse was to call and see what this was all about. Then, I remembered the advice we always give out when readers inform us about receiving such calls: “DON'T DO IT!”

What to do and what I did

After my head cleared, I emailed the Treasury Department (OIGCounsel@oig.treas.gov) and outlined exactly what had happened. Within minutes, I received an auto-reply explaining the situation.

First off it said, “If you have received an unsolicited call or email from an individual purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service or the Department of the Treasury, and/or making threats of legal action or even promises of federal grant funds, it is a fraud.”

“There are,” it went on, “a number of similar scams, some of which can be quite persuasive: in some, the scammers have done brief internet research of potential victims so they appear to be familiar with their victim's personal details, and they use this information as a springboard to obtain more.”

Such scams are on the rise, according to the email, which went on to urge consumers to continue to be extremely wary of unsolicited telephone or e-mail communications, particularly those that request personal information, contain any offer of some prize or "grant," or make monetary demands.

In other words, do nothing the scammer asks of you, but do report it to the appropriate agency.

Remember, if you don't provide personal information, you can't be a victim.


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