IRS collection calls may now be real, how to tell the difference

(WSPA) – Ever since the IRS tax scam calls surfaced a few years back, we’ve been warning you, the IRS will never call you unless you’ve contacted them first.

That’s all about to change.

2017 marks the implementations of some major revisions to the IRS code on “collections” that pave the way for real third party debt collectors to call and say you owe taxes.

So how do you tell the difference? We got answers from the experts in this 7 News Consumer Watch.

Bogus IRS callers have targeted hundreds of thousands of people, most sniffing out the scam.

“He said well you’ll go to jail, and I said, cool, take me to jail, I pay my taxes,” said Jeremy Krauze in Greenville.

But more than 5,500 have fallen victim, losing a combined $36 million dollars.

“The scam works, people do pay them,” said Tax Attorney Fred Pfeil with SC Legal Services. He said he gets calls all the time from clients worried they will be taken to jail.

Pfeil is concerned the scam is only becoming more believable because of new guidelines that allow the IRS to forward delinquent tax payer information to private debt collectors.

“It’s going to open up people to more scams because scammers are always on the forefront. They are always ahead of these rules and regulations,” said Pfeil.

The IRS has already awarded contracts to 4 agencies: Conserve, Pioneer, Performant, and CBE Group. Beware, those names are public, so scammers may try to impersonate them.

“The best way to tell the difference is to get the information from the person calling, hang up and do research and try to find a number independently and if that number matches up then it’s legitimate.”

Before you get any calls, the IRS will send you a letter and so will the debt collection company. But they are only required to send those to your last known address, so it’s important to keep that up to date.

And don’t be fooled, scammers are also sending bogus tax letters.  If you have any questions about letters or calls contact SC Legal Services or a tax professional.

And heed the red flags: The real IRS contracted tax collectors cannot threaten jail time, garnish your wages, or accept payment over the phone.

“The rules are always changing, there’s always a concern, there’s always something new. Just stay educated,” said Krauze.

The new guidelines kick-in the day after tax day in April 2017.

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