The telephone rang on a Thursday morning. It wasn’t the usual time for calls asking for a donation to this or that charity, so, without too much thought, I picked up the receiver and said hello.
The man at the other end announced that he was calling from the Treasury Department. He wanted to alert me that I was guilty of not paying some income tax and that a call was out for my arrest. Bingo! I was now fully awake.
But in the past seventy years I’ve always paid my income tax. I asked for an explanation. He told that my 2009 tax had not been completely paid, and I owed $1,540.65. Furthermore, I should not discuss the matter with third parties to avoid further consequences.
To avoid arrest, I had to pay the delinquent amount immediately. A check or cash would not suffice. The Treasury could accept only a Green Dot Money Pack. I’d need three such Money Pack cards, each for $500. I could buy them at a Speedway gasoline station or a CVS pharmacy. Did I know where one was?
Yes, about thirty minutes away.
He told me not to hang up my phone to preserve the connection. If I had a cell phone, I should not use it to make a call. When I had the Green Dot Money Packs, I should pick up the phone and get further instructions. I put down my receiver and exhaled deeply.
Just then my wife came into the kitchen and asked why the receiver was off the hook. I covered the mouthpiece and explained. She was aghast. She told me to call our accountant and our daughter, an attorney. When I explained that I’d been told not to disconnect the call, she got out her own cell phone and called our accountant. We were told that he was on the phone and would call back. After ten minutes–a very long ten minutes–he called.
He told me that it must be a hoax: the IRS, not Treasury, would have been involved if it were a real tax matter, and the IRS never calls but always writes. My daughter agreed. Without saying another word to the man from the “Treasury,” I hung up the phone.
Then I called the Ann Arbor Police Department. The officer told me that though my caller ID had shown a Washington area code, 202, that number was undoubtedly automatically connected to an overseas line. But he could do nothing.
Even though I wasn’t arrested, the phone call spoiled much of my day. But I didn’t give the scammer $1,500. That’s a plus.