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IRS Warning: New Phone Scam Involving Fictitious Certified Letters

7/7/17 – Jami Vallandingham

Contributing author - Mohamed "Mo" Emlemdi

The Internal Revenue Service is warning people of a new scam that is associated with the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), where scammers call to demand immediate tax payments using a prepaid debit card.

Most recently, the scammers tell their victims they are from the IRS and that they supposedly sent two certified letters in the mail that were returned as undeliverable. At this point, they demand payment using a prepaid debit card and threaten arrest if the payment is not able to be made. The victims are told that they are not to contact their local IRS office, an attorney or their tax preparer until the tax payment is made. The scammers also claim the card is linked to the EFTPS system, which is actually under their total control.

EFTPS is an automated system for paying federal taxes online using the EFTPS Voice Response System. Note that EFTPS is offered free by the U.S. Department of Treasury and does not require the usage of a prepaid debit card. Because EFTPS is automated, taxpayers should never receive a call from the IRS. Also, there are numerous options for paying a real tax bill so you will never be confined to one specific payment option.

Distinct Signs of a Scam:

The IRS and any of its authorized private collection agencies will never:

  • Request credit or debit card information over the phone.
  • Threaten immediate arrest if payments are not made
  • Demand immediate payment using a specific payment method (prepaid card or wire transfer) over the phone. The first step the IRS usually takes is to mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes, not a phone call. All tax payments should be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made out to third parties.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. 

If you don’t owe taxes and don’t have reason to believe you do, don’t give out any information and hang up immediately. Call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 to report the call. You can also report the call to the Federal Trade Commission on FTC.gov by using the FTC Complaint Assistant and adding “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you owe taxes or believe you do, view your account information online at IRS.gov to see the real amount owed and to review your payment options. You can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 for additional assistance.

Visit the Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts page on IRS.gov for additional information.