As the Internal Revenue Service begins using private debt collection services to try and collect delinquent taxes, the agency is telling taxpayers how to tell if the person contacting them is acting on behalf of the agency.
The agency’s concern appears to be justified as there is no shortage of people who would like to get access to personal information for their own financial gain. There have already been a number of scams where people have impersonated federal officials in an attempt to trick people into giving out personal or financial information or even conning people out of cash.
In fact, federal employees have not been immune from these scam artists as a phony e-mail has been sent to federal employees asking them for personal information about their Thrift Savings Plan. (See Are You A "Phish"?)
The IRS can reasonably expect these scams to proliferate with the publicity about private debt collectors assuming a role in collecting delinquent tax payments.
The agency has set up these procedures to enable taxpayers to ensure the person contacting them is acting on behalf of the agency.
IRS letter. All participants selected for the program will get a letter from the IRS, telling them they’ve been selected for the private debt collection program. The name of the company will be included in the letter.
Collection agency letter. All participants will subsequently receive a second letter, this one from the collection agency, informing the taxpayer they will be contacted soon regarding back taxes.
Money collected. When paying a collection agency on behalf of the IRS, remember that the check will be made out to the U.S. Treasury – not to an individual or firm. The collection agency will provide the appropriate IRS coupon and mailing address for the payment. The collection agencies will never ask for cash or checks written to individuals.
Contact the IRS. If in doubt, check IRS.gov or call the IRS at 800-829-1040 for more information.