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Local business owner urges Grand Rapids to stay on lookout for tax scams

I graduated from GVSU last spring and started my own business. This is how my small business was nearly scammed by an IRS impersonator.
Woman talking on phone

Woman talking on phone /Courtesy of Breakingpic

I graduated from GVSU last spring and started my own business, Searchiply. I had never done my own personal taxes before, so doing my own business' taxes was even more cause for a mistake. This is what led to me to believe that I could possibly get a phone call from the IRS. But not a phone call like this one.

How the scam started

The scammer gave me a call a few days ago telling me that I had filed my taxes in a fraudulent manner, so I had to pay a penalty fee. He gave me his name, Gerald Flynn, along with his IRS badge ID number. He then gave me my arrest warrant number and case number and insisted I write it down so I wouldn’t forget. He asked me a few more questions to make him seem legitimate, and he explained the mistakes I had made on my tax form, which to me seemed believable.

What made it seem real

During the phone call, he said I couldn’t hang up the phone or tell any third party until I either pay the money or get arrested. The penalty was quite a bit of money, but nothing too extreme. I was very skeptical, so I told him I wasn’t going to pay the money. He then transferred my call to the "Grand Rapids Police Department" to inform me that I would be arrested if I didn't pay the fee. Little did I know, they actually spoofed the Grand Rapids Police Department's phone number, so it displayed their exact phone number on my caller ID. This is when I was nearly convinced. I told the women I was speaking to that I would consider paying the money, but I had some more questions, so she transferred me back to Gerald. He said I would need to go to any local convenience store to get a prepaid credit/debit card. He said I needed to do this because if I were to pay with a regular credit or debit card, it could take up to 48 hours for the money to be transferred. Since it was a tax fraud felony, the payment needed to be sent over right away. If I had bought the card, he said I would need to pay using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System’s website ( I looked up the website and found that they were associated with the IRS, so I knew it was a legitimate website.

How I knew it was fake

When he told me this, I had a hunch that he would end up saying that I needed to pay them directly because the EFTPS website isn’t working, or some fake excuse to that extent. I knew this because I had been contacted in the past by a scammer who wanted me to build him a website for his “new business.” This guy said he would pay me through a merchant account, then right before paying me, he asked me to give him my credit card information instead. Luckily, I require a portion of the project to be paid up front, so I hadn’t started the project yet. This all sounded far too familiar, so I went to Google and typed in “IRS tax scams phone calls.” Sure enough, there were numerous articles on the topic - one of the first search results being the IRS website.

In the article, they listed several things that scammers will do including:

  • “Con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.”

  • “Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.”

  • “Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling.”

  • “The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate.”

Here is the article I read.

After reading this article, I began asking him questions about what I had read just to see what he had to say. He said something along the lines of “the IRS website only mentions nationwide cases of tax fraud on their website, and we’re dealing with a local fraud case.” This obviously didn’t make any since and he was getting impatient, so I hung up the phone.

I’m a pretty skeptical person, but they made me believe them for quite a while. They have clearly performed this scam thousands of times. With every phone call they make, they’re becoming smarter. It’s disgustingly impressive how they have perfected everything they say and do to scam people. I really hope you have learned a few things about what these awful people are doing, and how you can avoid it. If you or someone you know is ever contacted by an IRS impersonator, make sure to report it to the U.S. Treasury. You can do so here.

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