A Harvard fellow, an IRS Agent named Devontae & an electric company that demands gift cards – Part 2

Read Part 1 here

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Meet Devontae

The group chat is primarily designed to roast those who step out of line, nevertheless, we exchange valuable information. This week, one of the gems shared was an IRS Agent named Devontae Johnson (is this a common name is South Asia? #AskingForAFriend) who called one of the ladies in the group chat about a past due tax bill in the amount of $4,000 that needed to be settled. He was giving her a golden opportunity to settle this nearly decade old debt, all she had to do was make an immediate payment over the phone. Once she told him she also worked for the IRS, he used some colorful language and hung up.

As the filing deadline looms, more people will be targeted with these calls. The scammers are bold, aggressive and ruthless. They will do anything they can to get your money and their timing is impeccable. They know that the tax refund checks are rolling in and they are not tapping into a dry well. They’re calling at a time where many of us are truly flush with cash from overpaying Uncle Sam throughout 2017.

With over 100 million tax payers in America, they don’t need everyone to believe them. They need very few people to make the payday worth it. If they make 1,000 calls for the season and find success with 10 people, that’s only a 1% success rate, but that would net them $40,000. That’s slightly below the national median income. Not bad for a few weeks’ worth of work.

Fortunately, the scammers are also stupid. The IRS prioritizes written notifications that  allow us to have adequate window for a proper response as well as the opportunity to appeal their initial claim. The IRS does not show up to arrest you without due process (something a caller may threaten if you stay on the phone long enough to reject their request). The IRS does not ask for instant payment because of the possibility that you may appeal in the event that they made an error. The IRS also doesn’t enforce immigration laws, and the average IRS agent would not know anything about your legal status as the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury tend to operate independently from one another. However, a scammer might threaten an immigrant (even a legal one) with deportation because they sometimes intentionally target people with foreign sounding names and limited English proficiency, particularly if they are older tax payers. For example, your newly retired Dominican abuela who might not be as assertive or fluent in English as your American born cousin. These people make easy targets because they lack sophistication. And even if they are here legally, the vitriol of this administration towards non-white residents and its hostility and disdain for the poor, almost make the threat of expulsion from America over a past due tax bill,  believable, as an unpaid bill would only reinforce the notion of outsiders being leeching no good thieves.

Just like my Harvard-bound Spanish widow who threatened to send her academic enforcers after me, Devontae Johnson relies on fear to get his way. Although the arms of the law are far reaching, we still have rights to reasonable due process and legal protection from unlawful seizure. As powerful as the U.S. government is, there has never been a time where you could go to jail for refusing to provide your account number over the phone to a faceless man with poor command of the English language. We do not know what the future hold, as every action of this federal government continues to be unprecedented, however, we are not there yet.

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