What should I do for mom after an IRS phone scam?
September 7, 2018 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Happy Friday, AskMe. I really didn't anticipate having to ask this, but… Mom has just been victimized by one of those IRS phone scams making the rounds. What should we do, beyond the obvious?

I've written previously about scammers and my mom. This seems to be unrelated, as far as I know. The caller claimed to be working for the IRS, which due to some previous history on our family's part was a great line to use with her. They threatened arrest, and ran her through an elaborate scheme.

In short, they kept her on the phone for ~3 hours, and managed to get her to pay a large sum via Google Play gift cards. If there's any sort of silver lining, she claims not to have given them her SSN or any other information beyond our current address, though I'm personally a bit worried about that much.

I obviously need to report this to the IRS. Their web site advises reporting to the FTC and local law enforcement. Beyond that, is there anything else the fine folks of AskMe might suggest? You've been wonderfully helpful for me in the past, and I really appreciate it so very much. I'm taking it as given that the money is gone for good, though would love to hear different.
posted by Alensin to Grab Bag (5 answers total)
Well, she is unfortunately now likely to be on a list of the successfully defrauded (if she wasn't already thanks to Mr. Oil Rig) and so may now be the target of many more calls. How does she feel about this? That is, does she admit she was scammed? If so, is she in a living situation such that she can arrange to radically cut back her access to cash? Would she at least be willing to put your name on her account, too (so you can get an alert for debits/withdrawals above a small amount)?

Would she agree not to answer the phone unless she recognizes the number?

You can try contacting Google, but that money is gone.
posted by praemunire at 7:37 PM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

She may get another phone call from someone who is ostensibly able to help her recover her money, perhaps claiming to be from the IRS or the FBI. They will need more money to use as bait for a trap...

It will, as you will recognize immediately, be another scam.
posted by SereneStorm at 7:49 PM on September 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

As a side note, an AARP membership might be worth it if she would read the magazine, which sometims carries scam warnings. They're available on the Web site, too.
posted by SereneStorm at 7:51 PM on September 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is a hugely popular scam that the IRS is well aware of, though usually they ask for ITunes gift cards and not google play gift cards. I would have a serious talk with her about scams and the common tactics- if you are unfamiliar with them yourself, a quick Google search should familiarize you on the common national scams and perhaps calling your local precinct could inform you of ones in your area. AARP has some useful information on common scams targeting seniors.
I would definitely open a case with your local police, though don’t hold your breath hoping that it’s going to get any of the money back. Google will not refund any of the money nor will the merchant from whom she purchased the cards. Most of these scammers spoof their numbers and are international callers, though they may be able to triangulate some of the information using other cases that were opened. The police should also be able to both reassure her that this is a scam (so hopefully she isn’t taken by similar scams in the future) as well as let y’all know of any other scams currently circulating.
I would also call the bank and see if there’s anything they could offer as far as services go, they may be able to direct you towards caps on withdraws amounts that you can set up so at least the amount of money taken in the future may be lower. They also probably have some informative literature on common scams against their customers.
Definitely warn her that they will use public information and try and make their claims legitimate. A common scam is to claim the grandkid is in jail and they need to wire money to an account as bail. Always call the person directly or family members or at least the jail itself they claim first before moving any money. 9/10 times the grandkid is at home confused why they would have been arrested in the first place.
posted by shesaysgo at 10:32 PM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Most state attorney generals have a division that focuses on fraud, so call your state's attorney general office and report it there, too. Also look to see if your state/county has any kind of senior assistance program, such as a help line. Where I live, that's the first call for help by seniors who've been defrauded by scammers such as these.
posted by Lunaloon at 9:54 AM on September 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

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