CHICAGO - For years the IRS has been telling people that, unlike fraudsters, they would never call you to demand payment. Now, that is now changing.
The IRS will start using collection agencies to call people who owe back taxes. Some say that's a problem.
"We have been stating for a long time saying the IRS does not call you to demand payment in any way shape or form, that's not what they do, that's not their M.O. Unfortunately, the IRS now is seeking third party collection agencies which is calling on behalf," said Steve Bernas, Better Business Bureau.
The Better Business Bureau is concerned because this comes after a strong message from consumer advocates and the IRS that the IRS will not call people for payment.
That's been the warning to consumers about crooks who use spoofing technology to make it look like they're calling from the IRS. They shake down victims to wire "back tax money" using threats of arrest or deportation. The scheme cost victims more than $50 million in 2016.
"We are concerned about the third party collection the IRS is going to be using because the scam artists are going to align themselves with it and take advantage of the situation," Bernas said.
According to the IRS website, four different private, contracted, collection agencies will call people who owe back taxes and direct them to pay at the IRS.gov website. Collection agents will not ask for payment via wire transfer or a prepaid debit card, like those scams do. And anyone who gets a call will first be notified by mail that their back taxes have been turned over to a collection agent.
This week - when interviewing the IRS in Chicago about tax scams - investigators reminded people to be vigilant about mysterious calls.
"They don't react or give information over the phone to anyone who says they are calling from IRS or any government agency often a lot of calls are going out to day from trusted institutions where it may sounds ,like it is your bank or credit card company and they know enough about you to convince you they are legitimate and authentic and they are asking for personal information so when you get those calls and you have not asked those calls to come to you just hang up the phone," IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent James Robnett said.
Collection agency calls from the IRS could be starting now. The two biggest points to remember are that you would first know by letter if you owe back taxes, and never wire money or use a gift card to pay taxes.
More tips on IRS phone scams:
The IRS will continue to keep taxpayers informed about scams and provide tips for protecting themselves. The IRS encourages taxpayers to visit IRS.gov for information including the "Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts" page.