WARNING: IRS SHAM
East Texan Reports Losing Over $27,000 to IRS Imposter
Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers to anticipate an uptick in IRS imposter calls this month. An East Texas consumer contacted BBB and reported over $27,000 was given to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) imposter. The IRS has issued an online warning for taxpayers as the Oct. 15 tax-filing extension deadline is approaching and scammers are continuing to pose as IRS employees, making threatening phone calls and using phishing schemes to swindle victims.
According to the victim, someone claiming to work for the United States Treasury Department called from 209-854-4846 claiming back taxes were owed. The caller further threatened if the money wasn’t paid upfront and in gift cards the victim would be arrested. The victim reported making over $20,000 in withdrawals from Chase Bank. He then purchased a total of 55 $500 gift cards; 54 from Tyler-area Dollar General Stores and one from a Tyler-area Walgreens.
“These callers are using scare tactics in an attempt to catch you off guard,” reminds Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau Serving Central East Texas. “Don’t be pressured into making payments to collectors without verifying that you owe the debt.”
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has changed the way it deals with overdue taxes, and that means third party collection agencies may now call you on the phone.
There are many ways to tell whether a call you receive about tax debts is an IRS fraud call. According to the IRS, people with overdue taxes will always receive multiple contacts, including letters and phone calls, from the IRS first. The IRS will also always notify taxpayers before sending their accounts to a private collection agency.
BBB provides the following information for consumers to differentiate between a legitimate IRS debt collector and a tax scam:
• The IRS and the private debt collection company will both send a letter to the taxpayer first. If you get a call first and had no idea you owed taxes, be cautious. NOTE: Taxpayers who have recently moved may have missed those letters. This could lead to confusion if their first contact is from the collection agency. Taxpayers can use Form 8822 to update the IRS with a new address: https://www.irs.gov/uac/form-8822-change-of-address.
• Private debt collectors will be able to identify themselves as contractors of the IRS collecting taxes. These employees must comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and, like IRS employees, must be courteous and respect taxpayers’ rights. If the caller yells, curses, or threatens to have you arrested, it is not a legitimate collector. Just hang up.
• Private debt collectors will not ask for, and cannot accept, credit card information over the phone. Consumers will pay the IRS directly and will not need to send any money to the private debt collection company. You can check this page for payment options: https://www.irs.gov/payments. You can also see your balance and payment history. If the caller asks you to pay them directly, and especially if they ask for an unusual form of payment such as wire transfer or gift cards, it’s a scam. Just hang up!
• Taxpayers can ask for their account to be transferred from the private debt collection back to the IRS.
The IRS adds that private collection firms will only be calling about tax debts that people have had for years and that they have been contacted about previously. Taxpayers can confirm they have an unpaid tax debt from a previous year by visiting www.irs.gov/balancedue.
BBB reminds all consumers, particularly those who have outstanding tax debts, that the IRS will explain this new process clearly and will make every attempt to work with them to set up payment plans. They will also give taxpayers the chance to question or appeal the amount owed.
If you feel you are the victim of this or any scam, go to BBB’s Scam Tracker. For more information and updates, you can visit: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/private-debt-collection. You also may contact the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.