AUBURN, Ala.- Thursday started out as a normal day for Industrial and System Engineering Auburn graduate student, Michael McClay.
He was getting ready for class when his phone rang. When he answered, there was no person on the other end. A few moments later, the phone rang again and the person on the other end to McClay they were calling on behalf of the FBI to let them know the IRS was indicting McClay on three counts of tax evasion.
McClay says they knew he graduated from Auburn and that he was going back for a Master’s Degree. McClay feels that they may have had this due to security breach at Auburn a few years ago. They asked him if he had any scholarships, which he did. They told him that he did not pay his student taxes. The number the person called from was the Huntsville FBI Office, so McClay started to believe them.
They told him he owed $1,900 in student taxes, and this was something that needed to be taken care of immediately despite McClay asking if he could speak to his parents and asking them to call back. He says the data to his phone was blocked, so he was unable to make or receive any calls or texts.
He told them that he did not have $1,900, but was soon told he can pay a portion and go on a payment plan,
McClay was given two options of either going to the IRS office in Columbus or fighting the issue and court and dealing with legal fees.
“They said I had a warrant on my arrest. So, when the stakes are that high where it’s either jail or it turns out to be a scam, it turns out to be real lopsided and you really want to believe them.”
He was told that he had to purchase voucher cards and give them the codes since the IRS did not directly handle money. So, he went to Best Buy and purchased three Itunes cards at $500 each. He called to get the matter resolved, but they said he needed to pay the full amount to remove his warrant. So, he bought another card.
He was transferred to someone and they said he needed to pay the other two charges for $2,500 and $1,200.
He went back to buy the $2,500, but a manager came up to him saying a girl was in the store recently doing the same thing, and soon after she was crying on the floor of the store. McClay told the person on the phone this information, and they told him to go to Office Depot to buy the cards, which he did.
He then bought the $1,200, but the Opelika Police stepped in.
“As soon as I got back to my car, I hear a tap on the window and it’s the police,” McClay said. “I look over and say, “Is this about the warrant?” “I am on the phone trying to get it released.” They said ‘What warrant are you talking about?” He took the phone and said ‘who is this?’ The guy said ‘I am me.’ ‘Who is this?’ He said ‘I think I know who you are.’\ You’re in a different country scamming this guy.’ He talked him in and he’s like I’m in Afghanistan basically.”
McClay says he is unable to get the money back since he made the purchases himself. Now, he hopes that it does not happen to anyone else.
“You always think you’re too smart to get scammed; Nigerian Prince, I’ve seen that one before,” McClay said. “I’ll never get scammed by something like that or those mass marketing ones where they email 10,000 people and five will respond. If you think you’re too smart to get scammed, you’ve already lost because you’re not watching out for it.”
The money he lost was to help his tuition. He has made a GoFundMe Account telling his story. You can find it here
Police say these are serious crimes, and the IRS will never call you. Instead, they will mail you a letter asking you to call them, and no government agency will ask you to pay with gift cards. If you receive a call like this, do not give out any information, hang up and call the police.