MILPITAS (KGO) -- After years of telling us the IRS won't call and demand payments like scammers do, the IRS is now hiring debt collectors to call and demand payments.
So how will you know what's real and what's a scam?
For many, the news comes just as folks were getting wise to crooks claiming to be from the IRS. Now actual IRS debt collectors will be calling if you haven't paid what you owe.
But some worry bad guys will start posing as those debt collectors and taxpayers won't know what to believe.
The calls have come to millions of Americans.
Milpitas resident Swetali Khapekar got a call from someone claiming to be an IRS debt collector and believed it. She paid the crooks $16,000, believing that police were after her, even turned herself in before learning the truth.
"We've seen the evolution of a phone scam that's quite sinister and quite nasty, actually," said IRS spokesperson Raphael Tulino.
For years, the IRS has hammered home the point that if you get a sudden call demanding back taxes and threatening jail, it's a scam.
"Well now guess what. Now there will be people calling on behalf of the IRS to collect taxes, which will be enormously confusing to the public," said Consumer Action's Joe Ridout. He says scammers know the names of collection agencies and may use that to fool victims. "It opens the door to a gargantuan increase in the number of IRS impersonators who will be contacting the public."
The IRS said it has no choice because a new law called the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act requires the IRS to hire debt collectors, to help pay for new roads.
The IRS says it will mail taxpayers two written notices before a debt collector will call. If you get a call before getting a notice, it's likely a scam. Also, a real debt collector will never demand payment by wire or debit card, or threaten arrest.
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