B y Bern Zovistoski
My phone rang in mid-afternoon, and a woman with a decidedly foreign accent said she was calling about the “criminal lawsuit” that the IRS had filed against me.
She said she was calling from the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D. C. After some effort, I gleaned from her that I was going to be arrested the next day.
Flummoxed, to say the least, I pleaded with her for more information and she said I could call the “legal department” – she gave me a 202 area code number – and get the details from “Alex Watson.”
When I called the number the man who answered said he was “Alex Watson.” In a unique accent, he asked for my phone number and I gave it to him, then he informed me that I was going to be arrested the next day on a “non-bailable warrant” and would be incarcerated for three years.
Stunned, I asked him why, and he rattled off this: It was because his office had conducted an audit and that I had failed to file certain forms, including “a 909 and a 206,” and I owed back taxes.
I pleaded that I had not received any notification from the IRS and in fact had arranged a payment plan for the taxes I owed. “The payment plan has been canceled,” he said abruptly.
Scrambling now, I protested again that I had not received any communication from the IRS. He quickly replied that he had sent “two emails” to which I had not responded. By now he was getting excited, not letting me speak, saying it wasn’t his fault if I didn’t read the emails.
I persevered, saying all communication I’d ever had with the IRS was by letter, U.S. mail, and he said two letters had been sent by certified mail and I had not responded, so I was going to jail. When I told him I had never received any notice of certified mail, he got a bit angry, at the same time telling me to be polite or he would see that I went to jail for not three years, but six years.
I asked him how much money the “IRS” calculated that I owed, and he said $14,982.50. Quickly he added that if I was uncooperative that number could rise to about $39,000 with a series of additional charges and fees.
He said the money had to be paid right then and there, insisting that I would not be afforded even 24 hours to gather the funds. If I didn’t pay, he said, he would issue the arrest warrant and notify local police to arrest me the next day.
When I asked if I could have my lawyer speak with him, he said no. That’s when, I suppose, it started to dawn on me what I was dealing with.
I decided I had nothing to lose, since I couldn’t give him money on the spot and thus was expecting the police to be knocking on my door the next day.
“This is a damn scam!” I declared, and hung up.
Rattled by the experience, I told my wife Paulette what happened and she immediately went on the Internet and found a warning about an “IRS phone scam” that reportedly has been working all too well. The site included a recording of a conversation between a guileless taxpayer and a man with a foreign accent who used some of the same lines that I’d been given.
In the recording, he told the taxpayer that his name was “Steve Parker,” but I have no doubt it was the man who told me he was “Alex Watson.” He probably uses lots of names, but the one that fits him best is “scam artist.”
Bern Zovistoski is a Granville native who now lives in Arizona with his wife Paulette.