How to know difference between legit IRS debt collector, con artist

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The height of tax season is an anxious time for many, which means it's the perfect time for scammers to strike. Don't be a victim, take this warning to heart.

Debt collectors will soon be making calls on back-owed tax payments, but only those with outstanding tax debts going back several years will be contacted.

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Most importantly, they WILL NOT contact you by phone.

"The IRS will give taxpayers and their representative written notice when their account is being transferred to a private collection agency," states the press release. "The collection agency will then send a second, separate letter to the taxpayer and their representative confirming this transfer. Information contained in these letters will help taxpayers identify the tax amount owed and help ensure that future collection agency calls are legitimate."

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, this is very likely a con artist.

"They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling," states a press release from the IRS. "In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Alternately, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information."

The best thing to do is pretty easy – HANG UP THE PHONE!

The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies will never: 

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you don't owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do: 

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax: 

  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues involving bills or refunds. The IRS will continue to keep taxpayers informed about scams and provide tips to protect them.

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