IRS Warns of New Phone Scam Involving Bogus Certified Letters

By: Jackie Laberer

IRS Recently Releases Statement Warning Taxpayers of New Phone Scam Linked to EFTPS

The Internal Revenue Service recently released a new warning to taxpayers to beware of a new phone scam that is linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). With this scam, the fraudulent callers demand an immediate tax payment through a prepaid debit card. Taxpayers across the country have received these calls and alerted IRS to this scam, so taxpayers need to be extremely alert to the details, and be careful not to fall victim to the caller.

In this latest scam, the scammer claims that (s)he is a representative calling from IRS and tells the taxpayer that two certified letters supposedly have been sent to him/her in the mail, but have both been returned to the IRS as “undeliverable.” Then, the scammer proceeds to threaten the taxpayer with arrest unless (s)he makes the full payment through a prepaid debit card. The scammer continues by telling the taxpayer that the card is linked to the EFTPS system, and that it is the IRS’ payment system, when in fact, it is a system controlled entirely by the scammer. The scammer also warns the taxpayer not to contact their tax preparer/accountant, an attorney or anyone from IRS until after the tax payment has been made.

FYI – EFTPS is an automated system operated by the IRS for paying federal taxes electronically. A taxpayer can use the EFTPS system to make payments either by using the Internet or by phone call into the EFTPS Voice Response System. EFTPS is a free service offered to taxpayers, and it does not require the purchase of a prepaid debit card. Because it is an automated system, IRS will not call the taxpayer to follow up. Also, IRS allows taxpayers several ways to make payments for a real tax bill, so taxpayers are not limited to paying by a prepaid debit card only.

TELL TALE SIGNS OF A PHONE SCAM:
  1. Phone Call – IRS WILL NEVER CALL A TAXPAYER FIRST. Generally, IRS will mail out tax bills for any payments owed. They never email, text or call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, and they only accept payments made directly to the “U.S. Treasury.” They also don’t accept checks made out to third parties.
  2. Threat of Arrest – IRS WILL NEVER THREATEN IMMEDIATE ARREST. Generally, IRS will work with a taxpayer on paying a tax bill. They will threaten to levy bank accounts or assets, but they will never threaten to have a taxpayer arrested.
  3. Demand for Payment – IRS WILL NEVER DEMAND TAX PAYMENT WITHOUT CHANCE FOR APPEAL BY THE TAXPAYER. Generally, IRS will allow a taxpayer the opportunity to discuss or appeal a tax bill owed before they have to pay it. They will never demand immediate payment.
  4. Request Info Over the Phone – IRS WILL NEVER REQUEST CONFIDENTIAL CREDIT CARD INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE. When a taxpayer calls IRS, or they return your call, they will take steps to verify your identity before discussing any information with you, let alone ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE ONE OF THESE PHONE SCAM CALLS:
  1. Do not give out any personal information to the scammer! Hang up immediately.
  2. Call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page to report the call, or you may call (800) 366-4484.
  3. Report the call to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) at FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov.
  4. If in doubt, you may also call IRS directly at (800) 829-1040, or go to their website at IRS.gov.