Eyewitness News Investigates IRS scams. For years, scammers have victimized people posing as the Internal Revenue Service. Now there's fears that a new twist in the way the IRS will be conducting business will open the door to even more scams.
Since IRS scams began, people have been warned that the IRS does not call you- so if you receive a call- it's likely from a scammer. In a matter of months however, the IRS will start calling to collect past due payments.
The scams are surging.
Fresno Better Business Bureau Spokesperson Kayleena Speakman says, "In 2016, IRS scams were the number one scam reported to the Better Business Bureau."
Relentless recordings, with sometimes convincing con artists on the other end pretending to be Uncle Sam.
"People are very, very trusting. When it's the IRS, you know the IRS is a big powerhouse you don't want to mess with," says Speakman,
IRS scams heating up once again as tax season is underway.
Fresno resident Angela Pettit received a call from scammers.
"What they said was this is the Internal Revenue Service, there's a problem with your return. Please call another number. That was at 4:15 in the morning and I thought 'Wow, that's weird.' "
Pettit says she knew right away she had been targeted.
"I haven't filed my return yet."
But something else really saved her. A message she's heard for years from the Internal Revenue Service itself and the better Business Bureau.
"The IRS never calls you," says Pettit.
Those five words have been hammered into our heads as a way to avoid scammers. But, that is all soon changing.
Speakman says, "Starting as early as spring 2017, the IRS is going to be having private collection agencies calling people demanding payment for past due accounts."
In the next couple of months, the IRS will start calling you if you have a delinquent account. The calls will actually be from a third party collection agency, but the IRS says there are safeguards in place to differentiate a legitimate call from a scam. For one, it says two letters will be mailed out ahead of time warning a collection company will soon call you. A phone number will even be listed in those letters, so you know what to look for. Lastly, you will only be required to make a payment directly to the IRS, not the collection agency or any other third party.
"So that's one way you can get a feel- never wire money, never pay on a gift card. That's one thing we just cannot stress enough," says Speakman.
Still, the BBB says it was surprised by the Internal Revenue Service's new way of doing business.
"I do see it as a chance for more scammers to cash in."
Pettit says, "Oh, absolutely it's going to confuse people, because they're not going to know is this real or is this fake."
The BBB tells Eyewitness News these changes have been in the works for a couple years, saying a law was passed in 2015 allowing the IRS to collect on debts through collection agencies.