HOUGHTON - In early February, Anil Jambekar received a rather disturbing telephone call from someone claiming to work for the Internal Revenue Service. The caller said Jambekar owed the agency $2,930, but after several calls regarding the situation, he began to think something was wrong.
Jambekar said the callers claiming to be from the IRS were very detailed in the information they gave him. Over the course of several calls over February and March, most of them on voice mail, he was told he must wire the money right away or face serious consequences. One of the callers said the Houghton County sheriff would come in the next 45 minutes to evict him from his house if he didn't make payment immediately.
"I said, 'OK. I'll wait for the sheriff,'" he said.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Anil Jambekar looks at the CNN Moneyline website in his home Monday. The article on the website is about a telephone scam by people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service demanding money. Jambekar received several such calls, but realized they were part of a scam and didn’t pay.
Jambekar, who is from India but became a United States citizen in 1976, said a couple of the threats got him thinking the callers might not really be from the IRS. One of the threats involved possible deportation, but since he is a citizen, he knew that wasn't credible. He was also threatened with garnishment of his wages.
"From where?" he asked. "I'm retired."
Jambekar is a retired professor from the Michigan Technological University School of Business.
Jambekar said he thought the call was legitimate because the caller claiming to be an IRS agent gave his name and employee number, as well as a telephone number to call when he was ready to send the money,
However, Jambekar said he started thinking about the whole situation. He thought if the IRS was going to contact him, they would do it by mail, not with a telephone call out of the blue.
After receiving the first call in February, Jambekar said he went downstate for two weeks, and when his family returned there were five voice mail messages from people claiming to be from the IRS.
According to the caller ID on his phone, Jambekar said some of the calls came from a toll-free area code, and some came from Washington, D.C.
Jambekar said he was watching a television news program one day, and he saw a segment about other people receiving the same kinds of calls he received.
The IRS said they were not making those calls, and that it was a scam.
On the IRS website, an article dated Oct. 31, 2013, states "This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country.
We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer," said IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel.
"If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling." Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail.
In February, Jambekar said he called the Houghton Police Department about the situation.
Houghton Police Chief John Donnelly said the department is aware of the situation with Jambekar. However, since such scams are conducted from other countries, there's not a lot local police departments can do about such a situation. In some cases, they may contact the FBI about the scam.
"We are constantly bombarded with scams," he said. "We've had people scammed for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's frustrating, because (the call is) always from out of country."
People can be certain if the caller asks for a wire transfer for payment, the call probably is a scam.
Donnelly said in many cases, the scams target elderly people.
The callers often receive lists of names and other information about potential victims complied and sold by another person.
"They're relentless," he said.
Jambekar said the last call he received from the scammers was on March 7. Although he keeps track of his finances, he said he hasn't thought about the safety of his money.
"I haven't gotten that far in my thinking processes," he said.