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IRS Warns Taxpayers of New Scam Involving Phony Certified Letters

Posted by IRS on Tue, Jun 20, 2017

Fraud_Alert_sign-2.jpgThe IRS last week issued a warning about a new nationwide phone scam involving phony certified letters.

The fraud attempts involve phone calls where the caller claims to be from the IRS and tells the victim about two certified letters sent to them in the mail but returned as undeliverable. The caller then threatens arrest if a payment is not made through a prepaid debit card they claim is linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS.

The victim also is warned not to contact their accountant, an attorney or their local IRS office until after the tax payment is made.

“This is a new twist to an old scam,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said about the scam. “People should remember that the first contact they receive from IRS will not be through a random, threatening phone call.”

EFTPS is an automated system for paying federal taxes electronically using the Internet or by phone using the EFTPS Voice Response System. EFTPS is offered free by the U.S. Department of Treasury and does not require the purchase of a prepaid debit card.

Since EFTPS is an automated system, taxpayers won’t receive a call from the IRS. In addition, taxpayers have several options for paying a real tax bill and are not required to use a specific one.

READ MORE: Learn more about prior IRS scam warnings

Tell Tale Signs of a Scam:

The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.


For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.


For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:


The IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. For more information, visit the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on IRS.gov. Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube videos.

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Topics: Scam warnings

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This communication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. However, the general information herein is not intended to be nor should it be treated as tax, legal, or accounting advice. Additional issues could exist that would affect the tax treatment of a specific transaction and, therefore, taxpayers should seek advice from an independent tax advisor based on their particular circumstances before acting on any information presented. This information is not intended to be nor can it be used by any taxpayer for the purposes of avoiding tax penalties.

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