The IRS recently estimated that more than 4,500 people across the country lost almost $23 million to scammers calling and threatening arrest and seizure of assets for unpaid taxes. Announcements by the IRS and law enforcement agencies alerting the public about the scams and cautioning that collection efforts begin with a mailing from the IRS and not with a phone call. It appears as though the scam artist(s) took note of the public announcements and came up with a new twist on the telephone scam by sending out letters purporting to be from the IRS threatening to file a tax lien or seize property belonging to the taxpayer.
Latest Twist on an Old Scam
According to a tax tip recently issued by the IRS, taxpayers have been receiving letters made to appear as though they came from the agency threatening to file a property lien unless a tax bill is paid. The letter claims the taxes must be paid to a government agency that does not actually exist.
Some letters have referred to the agency seeking to collect the tax debt as the “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.” As the IRS points out, no such entity exists at the IRS or at any other agency within the federal government.
A media report about the fake letters goes a step further than the information provided in the IRS tax tip. According to the report, some of the people who received the letters and notified the IRS about them said they contained information about taxes actually owed by the recipient, but such information might have been available to the scammers from tax liens actually filed by the IRS and available through a search of public records.
Property Liens and How to Avoid Falling Victim to a Scam
Creditors put liens on property to give notice to the public that the house or car has been pledged as collateral by a borrower to secure payment of a debt. If the debtor does not make payments on the loan, the creditor may foreclose or seize the property and sell it to recover all or part of the debt owed.
A tax lien filed by the IRS essentially serves the same purpose by securing the government’s right to seize and sell the property if the tax obligation is not paid in full. Unlike a lien which the creditor allows a bank or finance company to place against property offered as collateral, liens in connection with unpaid taxes are involuntary because they are filed without the taxpayer’s consent.
Letters sent by the IRS arrive in an envelope bearing the agency seal. The contents of a real letter from the IRS contain a portion of your Social Security number or Employer Identification Number and offer a telephone number for you to call to speak with someone at the IRS.
If you receive a letter threatening to place a lien on property you own because of unpaid taxes, you should report it to the IRS using the agency’s online form. You should also report it to the FBI and to the Federal Trade Commission.
Trusted Advice and Guidance About Property Liens
A consultation with the attorneys at Magee & Adler may prove to be helpful for anyone in need of reliable advice and guidance about a property lien or about the authenticity of a notice of lien. Call today at 562-432-1001 to schedule a consultation.