Ready for another scam alert from the IRS? The agency says crooks are calling taxpayers nationwide demanding an immediate tax payment through a prepaid debt card linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).
Here’s how it works: The fraudsters call to say they’re from the IRS and that two certified letters were mailed to the taxpayer and returned as undeliverable. The taxpayer is threatened with arrest unless payment is made with a prepaid debit card linked to the EFTPS.
All of this, of course, is completely untrue.
The taxpayer also is told not to contact their tax preparer, attorney, or local IRS office until after the payment is made.
In previous versions of the phone scam, fraudsters have demanded payments on prepaid debit cards, through bank wire transfers, and even on gift cards, such as iTunes gift cards.
“This is a new twist to an old scam,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warned. “People should stay vigilant against IRS impersonation scams. People should remember that the first contact they receive from IRS will not be through a random, threatening phone call.”
The EFTPS is an automated system for paying federal taxes electronically via the Internet or by phone using the EFTPS Voice Response System. It’s free and doesn’t require buying a prepaid debit card.
In fact, the automated system offers several options for paying tax bills and no specific option is required.
Those options include paying online, by phone, or with a mobile device using the IRS2GO app. Taxpayers will get an instant confirmation after they pay.
Taxpayers who fear a scam should know the following:
- The IRS or its designated collection agencies do not call to demand immediate payment using any specific pay method. Usually, the agency mails a bill to the taxpayer. Tax payments should be made only to the US Treasury and never to third parties.
- Taxpayers are never threatened with arrest.
- Tax payments are never demanded without giving the taxpayer the chance to question or appeal them.
- The IRS never asks for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Taxpayers who don’t owe taxes should not give out any information, hang up immediately, and contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the incident, using the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage. Taxpayers also can call (800) 366-4484.
In addition, taxpayers can report the call to the Federal Trade Commission, using the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Be sure to add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Taxpayers who owe, or think they owe, taxes should look up their tax account online and review their pay options. They then can call the number on the billing notice or call the IRS at (800) 829-1040.
Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has covered real estate, mortgage finance, health care, insurance, personal finance, and accounting and taxation issues for newspapers, magazines, and websites. A Chicago native and former South Florida resident, she now lives in New England.