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Lien on Me: IRS Warns of Tax Scam

Fall has finally arrived, and a familiar chill has settled into the morning air. People are sporting scarves, sipping pumpkin-spice lattes, and, unfortunately, receiving fake lien notices from con-artists.

The IRS recently raised the alarm on this latest tax scam—a sober reminder that these schemes are no longer confined to filing season. The IRS press released warned that taxpayers have begun receiving physical letters from a fake government agency demanding payment of an outstanding tax bill.

In the letter, the scammers claim they have placed a lien on the taxpayer’s property in lieu of payment. Tax professionals will know right away that something fishy about the names attached to these letters (the Bureau of Tax Enforcement isn’t real, after all), but the average taxpayer might get caught up in the anxiety of receiving letterhead from a supposed government agency.

Clients may need to be reminded that any time they receive this type of communication, it’s always best to take stock of the facts. Taxpayers who know they do not have an outstanding tax bill can probably toss the letter in the trash, but being thorough is never a bad plan.

The IRS advice is similar to what data-security experts recommend for promotional emails: Confirm the message using official sources, like the company website. In the case of fake lien letters, the IRS says taxpayers should check their account on IRS.gov or call 1-800-829-1040.

Once the letter is determined to be a scam, it’s time to report it to the IRS. Here are the steps provided in the release:

  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the letter. The taxpayer should use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. When reporting the scam, they should include the key words “IRS Lien.”
  • Scan a document received as a letter or fax and send it to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov.
  • Report it also to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center , known simply as IC3.
  • Remember, getting ahead of criminal schemes is the key to effectively combatting them, and we do that by helping each other. The outreach campaign is named Taxes-Security-Together for a reason.

    Source: IRS Tax Tip-2019-134

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