Watch out for scams to collect IRS taxes owed as the bad guys are getting better and better at doing bad things, and the IRS is trying its best to keep up with them. Over the last few years, the IRS has implemented tools to help fight the problem but, as with any criminal endeavor, the crooks see $$ and will do their best to try to take it.
The IRS just came out with some reminders related to the on-going problem and encourages individuals to watch out for scams. These reminders are part of a new tax-collection program approved by Congress to retain the services of private contractors to collect past taxes owed by individuals. Typically….and this is important…by the time they are sent to the private contractor companies, the IRS’ collection personnel have already made repeated efforts and the outstanding obligations are several years old. This is important as the program does not appear to be structured to immediately be in contact with someone who has a more recent tax obligation….the IRS is typically using this program for delinquent accounts extending several years.
So, where there are collection efforts, especially from non-IRS personnel, is there a good chance that the bad actors will try to represent themselves to be legitimate “authorized” contractors…oh, I think you can count on it. (In fact, on a personal level, I had my own encounter that I almost fell for. The bad guys were good. I actually had a call that came up on my phone form the IRS…yes, caller ID said IRS…out of Portland, OR. I initially fell for it. Even though the IRS won’t call you unless they have made repeated efforts to reach you by mail, I initially got suckered in. As probably most of you would, you see the caller ID saying “IRS Regional Office” and probably break into a sweat. I even called the number. Midway through trying to connect, it dawned on me…”I haven’t received any letter from the IRS, so why are they calling me? And why from Portland?” I immediately disconnected the call).
Well, first, the IRS will not be sending delinquent accounts to the private collection agencies unless it is several years old and they have made repeated efforts to collect themselves. Further, the IRS will send you a letter first informing you that your account has been forwarded to this third party company. Then, the third party collection company will send you a letter on their letterhead as well explaining their role in trying to collect the debt.
But, what about the scammers being good at what they do, you get freaked out by the call and you do not remember if you owed any past tax bill? As we said, if you have not received a letter from the IRS and the third party collection agency, you can probably be confident that it is a scam. In addition, you can even go directly to the IRS website to see if you have any unpaid tax obligations. As the IRS says, “here are some things that scammers will often do but the IRS and its contractors will never do”.
There are a couple of pro-active options the IRS encourages a delinquent taxpayer to look into. On the surface, these programs seem very fair:
As always, the information provided is intended to be educational in nature. It is not intended, nor should it be interpreted as, any form of tax, legal, financial or investment advice. Always consult with a respective professional in all such matters.