You may have heard that the IRS has hired four private debt collection agencies to collect unpaid income tax. This means that consumers may begin receiving collection contact from the agencies, making it easier for scams to pop up and claim that they’re collecting on behalf of the IRS.
A recent article by CNN Money highlights how you can tell the difference between a scam and legitimate IRS contact. Here are some of the key things to watch out for:
You’ll only be contacted if you have unpaid income tax debt
If you’re contacted out of the blue by someone claiming to be affiliated with the IRS, but know you’ve never been contacted about unpaid taxes before, it’s not legitimate. The firms will be focusing on individuals with unpaid taxes that go back several years, and these consumers will have heard from the IRS multiple times already.
You’ll receive a notice in the mail first
The firms acting on behalf of the IRS won’t begin with phone contact. You should receive a letter from both the IRS and the debt collection firm prior to being contacted by phone.
They’ll only ask you to send payments directly to the IRS
Anyone who asks you to remit payment anywhere other than directly to the IRS is illegitimate. Never provide personal financial information like a credit or debit card number over the phone.
They still have to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Working with the IRS does not mean the firms are exempt from complying with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Among other regulations, debt collectors are not permitted to:
- Threaten or harass you
- Discuss your debt with anyone other than you
- Tell you incorrect information about the debt
- Contact you after 9pm or before 8am, unless you request that they do so