On Your Side: When the IRS calls...

Each new tax season brings new changes. But this year the IRS is doing something it's never done before-- using private collections companies to recoup unpaid tax debts.

That change goes against what the IRS has warned about for years. It's always told the public that if a private debt collector calls, then it's a scam. For years, plenty of crooks have been able to swipe people's money posing as a collector for the IRS.

The Nevada Attorney General's office got a warning about the new federal law enacted by Congress.

"I was a little bit surprised. My first thought was we have to find a way get it out to the public that this is happening," said Laura Tucker, Deputy Attorney General for the Consumer Protection Division.

Taxpayers don't understand the change. News 4 talked to Kia and Deandre Watkins, who were filing their taxes earlier this month at a Reno H&R Block.

"It's confusing because we don't know who to believe... we don't know if it's going to be a scam or real. IRS is something serious," said Kia Watkins.

So how do you know if the call you may receive is actually from a collector hired by the IRS and not a scam?

The IRS will assign cases to four private collection agencies:

  • CBE Group, 1309 Technology Pkwy, Cedar Falls, IA 50613
  • Conserve, 200 CrossKeys Office Park, Fairport, NY 14450
  • Performant, 333 N. Canyons Pkwy, Livermore, CA 94551
  • Pioneer, 325 Daniel Zenker Dr, Horseheads, NY 14845

The Nevada Attorney General's Office said you will never get a surprise phone call from someone saying you owe the IRS money.

"If you get a call from the IRS it won't be a surprise to you. The IRS sends out multiple notices over the mail, so you will know if you owe taxes. If it's a surprise to you, that probably a big sign that it's a scam," said Tucker.

Collection agencies will not ask for payment on prepaid debit cards, a gift card or through a wire transfer.

The IRS will not assign accounts to private collection agencies involving taxpayers who are:

  • Deceased
  • Under the age of 18
  • In designated combat zones
  • Victims of tax-related identity theft
  • Currently under examination, litigation, criminal investigation or levy
  • Subject to pending or active offers in compromise
  • Subject to an installment agreement
  • Subject to a right of appeal
  • Classified as innocent spouse cases
  • In presidentially declared disaster areas and requesting relief from collection

If you're still not sure if the call you receive is bogus, hang up and call the IRS back to confirm you owe money.

Have questions about this story? Reach out to Kim on Facebook and Twitter.

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