Carly Rae Jepson sings, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe”. Do you see the trouble? She gives her phone number to a total stranger! That’s exactly the trick—you don’t know them, but somehow, they get you to give them money! If they get one person out of a thousand to fall for it, they win!
The latest scam is an IRS phone scam. Scammers have been calling, using area code 202, the Washington DC area code, pretending to be an IRS agent. They may give a fake ID number, or give the last 4 digits of your social security number. The IRS has said repeatedly that they will NEVER call a taxpayer asking for money. You will get a letter first if you owe the IRS money. See the press release from the State of Illinois. Even if you do owe the IRS money, you should never have to pay them, as the scammers suggest, by a pre-paid debit card. If you do owe the IRS, you should call them yourself directly.
The most important thing to remember when you get a collection phone call is DO NOT PANIC! You ALWAYS have the right to ask whoever is calling to send you a bill. I cannot count the number of times that I’ve had clients who got a call, were threatened by nasty collectors, and they paid money to them right over the phone! Lots of money, thousands of dollars! First of all, those calls themselves may be illegal. Debt collectors have to live by the Fair Debt Collection Act. They cannot be abusive, or call during certain times. You could sue THEM! Second, how can you tell if they are collecting on a legitimate bill? How do you know you owe the caller if you haven’t seen a bill? Third, how do you even know if they are who they say they are?
It is true that if you fall behind on certain bills, you’ll start getting phone calls. Car lenders will threaten to repossess your car. Mortgage companies may threaten to foreclose on your home. But, they cannot threaten you with jail, or be abusive. YOU have rights, and you need to assert your rights. Tell them that you don’t pay anyone by phone. Tell them you’ll need to see a bill, and tell them you need to speak to a lawyer. AND, the biggest weapon you have is to hang up the phone. If they call back, just don’t answer.
Sing to yourself, “Hey, I don’t know you, so not getting my money, you think I’m crazy?”
If you are getting calls from IRS scammers, hang up. If you are getting debt collection calls, ask for any bill in writing, by mail. Then hang up! Call us if you have any question about spam calls, or collection calls. Don’t panic, and don’t be afraid. You have rights, and power. And, you have lawyers who can help.
Daniel J. Winter
Offices in Chicago, Gurnee, Oak Lawn, and Skokie, Illinois