I felt this deserved a spur of the moment post because stuff like this just doesn’t happen?
Today there was a message left on my answering machine stating it was the IRS and they had an open case filed on us, something about past taxes. It seemed suspicious to me, but because we had recently been the victims of identity theft, including a letter that had been sent to us legitimately from the IRS stating someone had accessed our tax information, I figured I would call back. (Yes – I now know that the IRS will NEVER call you, they will ALWAYS send a letter, FYI.)
When I called the number back the person who answered the phone gave me his name and told me he was “an officer of the IRS Tax and Crime Investigation Unit” along with his badge number (no, I have no idea if this is an actual unit of the IRS or not). He then proceeded to tell me that I was a primary suspect in a legal case from our Federal taxes in 2013. He began to ask me who filed my taxes, which I did not tell him, and then proceeded to warn me that within the next 45 minutes there would be a local law enforcement officer at my door because there was a warrant for my arrest.
At this point, I pretty much had decided that this was a scam. I said, “Sir, I am sorry, but I don’t believe that this is true and I think that you are trying to scam me.” Now – here is the CRAZY part…
He said, “I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry. You sound like such a nice woman, I don’t mean to harm you.” I could barely believe what I just heard. It took a second for my brain to process it.
I said, “Wait. What? Did you just agree with me that you are indeed trying to scam me?” I have had people try to scam me on the phone in the past, but always the person on the other end just hangs up when I politely tell them I believe it is a scam. I have never actually had someone admit to me on the phone that it was a scam and APOLOGIZE?! I wasn’t sure what to respond to him. He just kept apologizing.
Since I had his ear, and he hadn’t hung up on me yet, I figured I would encourage him to stop what he was doing and find a better job. I shared with him that we were good people and that although I recognized this scam, there are a lot of other good people out there who would easily be taken advantage of with this sort of thing. And that was a shame. I ended with telling him I truly hoped he would go home tonight and think about the consequences of his actions and find a better job that would actually benefit society instead of harm it. He agreed that he needed to do that and would. WOW!
Honestly, he sounded very sincere with his apologies. I truly hope that he did go home and rethink what he was doing with his life and turn it around for good instead of evil. But here is my point…IF I had been rude to him on the phone, IF I had just hung up on him on the phone, we never would have had that conversation. He never would have apologized and rethought in that moment about the damage he is possibly inflicting on families and individuals.
Our words have power. They can tear down or build up. They can instruct or cause harm. It is up to us. I pray today that we can all (including me!) try to do a better job about using our words to positively build up those around us, whether they be the people we are closest to, the cashier at the store, or the scammer on the phone. You never know how you may influence someone positively or negatively simply with the words you choose.
So choose kindness. Always.