Last week, I regaled you with the tale of Willie Alvernaz of Modesto, who became the repeated target of a very persistent caller purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service.
By the number of emails I’ve received over the past couple of years, and by the frequent social media posts warning their “friends” about the scam, these parasites draw the scorn of everyone they bother. They boorishly claim you owe back taxes and if you don’t pony up immediately, they have a marshal waiting to haul you off to the slammer. And it seems like they’ve picked up the pace with the April 15 tax day approaching.
Alvernaz, however, is making a personal pastime out of punking one relentless punk who through a thick foreign accent identifies himself as “Mr. Wilson” and warned Alvernaz to deal with no one else but him. Except that Mr. Wilson, the predator, has become Alvernaz’s prey.
In fact, search “YouTube and punking scammers” and you’ll find video after video posted by people getting their jollies from toying with the scam artists, leading them on and hanging them out no differently than what Alvernaz is doing, sans the selfies.
But while entertaining himself at their expense, Alvernaz actually stumbled upon something that will cause these creeps some real grief. I’ll get to that momentarily. First, let’s recap:
During one of now nearly three dozen phone calls, Alvernaz told Mr. Wilson he was having a heart attack, dropped the phone and made all kinds of fake gasping noises before hanging up. When the scammer called back, Alvernaz pretended to be his neighbor answering the phone while paramedics loaded the poor, ailing tax delinquent himself into an ambulance outside.
Even then, the scammer wanted to know if Alvernaz had gone to the bank. No, he didn’t have time to stop at the ATM on the way to the cardiac care unit.
The calls continued over the weekend, and then a funnier thing happened: When Mr. Wilson called again Sunday, Alvernaz recognized the number and again pretended to be his neighbor answering on his behalf. Only this time, “I told him Mr. Willie (which is what the scammer called him) died ... BUT... that he wanted to send $800 to the IRS to square the debt.”
“I told him I had permission to go to the bank and transfer the money,” Alvernaz said.
And that is where the scammer slipped up. He gave Alvernaz a bank account number where he could transfer the funds. This cretin must have been salivating at the prospect of finally finding a sucker. Except that when Alvernaz hung up, he called the IRS – the real IRS – and gave the account number to an agent.
“She looked it up and told me it is a real, active account in a bank in Waco, Texas,” Alvernaz said.
The agent told him the IRS will seize or drain the account and perhaps trace the deposits back to the victims.
The most significant thing here, folks, is that many people call the IRS to report these calls, expecting the agency to crack down and arrest someone half a world away. They provide the caller’s phone number. But scammers change their phone numbers on a daily, if not hourly, basis by using computer-based phone systems.
Turning in phone numbers won’t hurt them at all. But this might, as Alvernaz discovered: Tell them you’ll transfer funds to their accounts and get their information without giving any of your own. Then give their account numbers to the feds. Let the scammers go ballistic – in India or wherever – when they realize their accounts have been hacked and emptied by the real IRS.
Punking the punks, Alvernaz will tell you, makes for an amusing pastime.