5 Tips To Avoid Getting Scammed During Tax Season
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Politics and Activism

5 Tips To Avoid Getting Scammed During Tax Season

I hope wherever this guy is, he's enjoying the $500 worth of movies and music I bought him.

5 Tips To Avoid Getting Scammed During Tax Season

No one ever thinks the bad things will happen to you, and no one ever even considers something like a scam could ever be done to you.You see it in the movies and TV shows or you hear about it on the news, but you always ignore them because in your mind there's a one-in-million chance anything like that would ever happen to you. I fell in this category up until 8:45 yesterday morning. I always thought, "I'm pretty smart. No one would ever be successful at pulling one over me." I mean, I grew up watching my mom have such a high bullshit meter that even the cable company couldn't pull a scam over her let alone someone out to get all her money. However, I realized I have a higher opinion of strangers than I originally thought, and two hours of confusion, terrifying thoughts, and tears later I found myself short $500 and missing my dignity.

So because the entire situation could have been avoided if I was just a little bit more informed than "don't ever give out your credit/debit card information" here's a list of useful tips I wished I'd known 24 hours ago.

1. No government agency would call you on the phone to inform you about an issue involving money or ask you to pay unpaid federal taxes without having already informing you via mail.

Look, I'm only 21 years old. My parents still pay for my rent and I'm lucky enough to say they cover my tuition as well, so if I'm ever asked anything involving taxes or federal documentation I immediately point them back to my mom. So when this guy called me at 8:45 in the morning stating I hadn't filled out a federal tax form I had never heard of, I took his word. How was I to know that they will first communicate through mail? Well, they do. According to the IRS website, "The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill."

2. No government agency would make you pay right away or make any decision without giving you the chance to talk to your parents or your bank or appeal the situation at the very least.

As soon as the guy started saying I owed $1800 for not filling out this form, I immediately tried to hang up to call my parents. At this point, I wholeheartedly believed him, but I never have enough money to go grocery shopping let alone pay a $1000+ bill so I knew I had to get my parents involved. However, the guy wouldn't let me hang up. He kept saying, "If you hang up you loose the chance at fixing this, and your only option will be jail." So when the only options are to stay on the phone and pay what I could or go to jail, I stayed on the line. Fortunately, an actual IRS agent would give you the chance to figure out your payment options before forcing you to pay anything. This brings me to my next point.

3. No IRS agent will threaten to bring in the local law enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.

This guy called me three separate times before I actually answered, and from the moment I said hello, the guy spoke with an air of urgency. Right around the time I started to grow suspicious, the guy informed me that if I didn't take care of this problem immediately I could face jail time up to seven months. He said the UPD and APD both had warrants out for my arrest, my phone calls were being monitored, and that because I wasn't a minor I couldn't go to a third party (i.e my parents) for help in this situation. Every time, I would question his motives or ask if the situation was even real, he would immediately fire back with "If this wasn't real, why would I be doing everything I can to help you out? Your only other option is jail, so I wouldn't spend my time questioning what's happening, and instead try to fix what's going on." Hearing that my only other option was jail time terrified me. I don't know much about how the judicial system or being charged with tax fraud works, so hearing that an end result of tax fraud was jail time made perfect sense in my mind. Whatever the actual end result will be, it would not be informed to you by an IRS agent.

4. IRS agents will never have you use a specific payment payment, such as using a prepaid debit card.

Prepaid debit cards are like sending cash. Once you've given out the specific set of numbers that money is gone forever. What should've made a huge red flag start waving obnoxiously in front of me was the moment the guy asked me to put my payment onto five separate iTunes gift cards. With the threat of jail time and monitored phone calls looming over me, I immediately drove to an Office Max and did what was asked. The IRS will allow you to put your ducks in a row. They'll give you the chance to call the bank to move around some money or do whatever you need to do, they will never force you to put all your money on prepaid cards.

5. It's perfectly okay to be suspicious of a law enforcement officer.

After getting my money, the guy "transferred" me to the UPD to talk about cancelling my warrant. I googled the number and when it matched UPD's I believed what the so-called officer was telling me. However, be suspicious. Be way more suspicious than I was. Ask for the officer's first name, last name, and badge number. Hang up and call back then blame it on accidentally dropping the call if it's actually real. Don't just take their word for face-value. Most importantly, no matter what don't ever believe an officer when they ask for money (ha, duh).

This entire situation could've been avoided. If I had been more informed, if I hadn't taken his words for face-value and said bullshit instead, or if I had just called my parents -- I might still have $500 and my dignity in my possession. But I didn't, and now I'm left questioning when I became so gullible. They say hindsight's 20/20, and I've never believed it more. Every moment that should've been a red flag glares back at me. I wish I had ignored the calls, I wish I had asked a roommate's opinion before running out of the house, I wish I had called my dad, I wish I had just hung up, I wish the entire two hours had gone completely differently. But they didn't, and now I'm mainly trying not to dwell on the could've's, should've's, would've's.

As much as it sucks to say, not everyone has good intentions, some people simply want what they want and they don't care who they step on to get it. I was one of the stepped on people, but at least I can come out saying that it will definitely never happen again and my bullshit meter has risen a significant amount. Whether you've been a victim or you were like me and it's never crossed your mind, I hope you at least record these tips somewhere in your subconscious. And if you ever find yourself in this position, please yell BULLSHIT as loud as possible and hang up the phone.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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