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IRS Warns of Scammers Ahead of New Program for Debt Collection

The IRS has long been a popular target for sophisticated identity thieves, but deciphering whether or not a call from the agency is real or spam may have just become a little bit harder.

The long-held notion that the IRS doesn’t call residents could soon change thanks to a new law allowing the government agency to hire private debt collectors to go after tax scofflaws via robocalls and robotexts.

Last week, the IRS said the new program will begin later this spring.

According to the IRS, before any calls are made to a consumer, the agency will first give written notice that an account is being transferred to one of the private collection agencies. That agency will then send a second, separate letter to the taxpayer informing them of the transfer.

The companies hired by the IRS to be authorized under the new program include Conserve, Pioneer, Performant and CBE Group.

As for determining whether a call is a scam, here are four things the IRS and authorized collection agencies will never do:

• 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.

What should you do if you receive a call and don’t owe taxes? Here’s what the IRS recommends:

• 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 FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

If you do owe taxes and receive a phone call, the IRS says you should call (800) 829-1040.

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