IRS to use private debt collectors to recover back taxes - WSMV News 4

IRS to use private debt collectors to recover back taxes

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(WSMV file photo) (WSMV file photo)

For years we've been told that the Internal Revenue Service will never call you on the phone or use private debt collectors to recover taxes. Apparently Uncle Sam now needs help to reign in back taxes.

The agency has hired four private debt collection agencies. Some consumer advocate groups fear the move will create openings for scammers, and possible harassment from the debt collectors working on behalf of the IRS.

The IRS has set up a protocol when turning over a delinquent tax account to a debt collection agency. If that happens, you will receive a collection notice from the IRS first in the mail before it's turned over to private collectors. Collection agencies will then send a letter of their own. The collection firm has to clearly identify themselves as working for the IRS in all communications.

The spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance said private debt collectors have to follow federal rules on harassment.

"They should follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they should be courteous, and report taxpayers’ rights," Kevin Walters said.

If a person representing a debt collector is harassing you in any way, that should raise a red flag.

"You, as a consumer, should be tipped off that this is more than likely a scammer, who is trying to take your private information and your money," Walters said.

Another tell-tale sign scammers have you in their sights is asking for unusual payment options.

"The companies authorized to collect these taxes will never ask for payment on a prepaid debit card, iTunes, or gift card. Demanding that type of payment is a tactic employed by scammers, and you should hang up the phone and not give them your personal information," Walters said.

The IRS has authorized four private collection firms who can call on behalf of the agency: CBE, Conserve, Performant, and Pioneer.

A collection company authorized by the IRS will instruct you to send a check made out directly to the U.S Treasury. Don't pay the debt collection agency.

Another important note, the IRS will only assign a private debt collection firm if you have unpaid taxes that go back several years, and you have already heard from the IRS.

Debt collectors can't call a person’s work, threaten harm or use profane language. Calls are also limited to certain hours, and they are not authorized to take enforcement actions. 

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