The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY)

Beware of bogus collection companies that offer to settle tax debt

- Staff report

NEWYORK » TheNewYork­StateDepar­tment of Taxation and Finance alerted taxpayers to a variety of scamletter­s being mailed to New Yorkers that offer to assist in settling outstandin­g tax debt.

The Tax Department is not sending these letters, nor are these companies affiliated with New York State or working on its behalf in any way. To help New Yorkers protect themselves, the Tax Department has posted examples of bogus collection letters to its website and shared tips on how to spot a scam, how to report it, and how to get the most accurate informatio­n about any taxes owed to New York State.

“These callous fraudsters, attempting to prey upon unsuspecti­ng victims amid a pandemic, will be held accountabl­e for their actions,” New York State Commission­er of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt explained.

“I urge New Yorkers to be vigilant because these letters have been landing in mailboxes across New York. If a letter seems suspicious, please check with us,” Schmidt added.

Scammers often use scare tactics to get you to share your personal and financial informatio­n with them. They may:

• demand immediate payment for a tax debt;

• threaten you over the phone, possibly with police action or deportatio­n; or

• demand you pay in a specific way, such as through prepaid debit cards or in person.

The Tax Department never threatens arrest or revocation of passports. A legitimate letter from the department will include:

• Tax Department logo;

• a complete return mailing address;

• an option to respond online, by phone, or by mail;

• the Tax Department website address;

• a detailed explanatio­n for why it was sent; and

• an explanatio­n of your rights as a taxpayer.

A legitimate private collection agency will:

• provide its contact informatio­n so you can respond to phone calls and letters;

• provide Tax Department contact informatio­n; and

• never use email, text messages, or socialmedi­a to request or discuss your personal or tax informatio­n.

How you can protect yourself:

• If you receive a threatenin­g phone call regarding your taxes, hang up immediatel­y.

• Never agree to meet anyone who claims to be a tax representa­tive in person to hand over payment for a debt.

• Don’t provide personal informatio­n in an email or click suspicious links in an email asking for personal informatio­n.

To protect yourself, you may wish to create an Online Services (OLS) account to more efficientl­y handle tax matters with New York State. With an OLS account, you can view any outstandin­g tax bills and related notices, and electronic­ally provide additional informatio­n about your tax return if necessary. This is themost efficient, secure, and accurate way to communicat­e with the Tax Department.

If you think you’ve been contacted by an impostor or fraudster claiming to be fromthe New York State Tax Department or a collection agency, visit the Tax Department’s Report an impersonat­ion scam to learn how to report it. The Tax Department promptly reviews each complaint and takes corrective action when appropriat­e.

How private collection works:

The Tax Department does occasional­ly work with private debt collection agencies. However, the Department notifies a taxpayer by letter that their collection case could be transferre­d to a private collection agency.

The private agency will then attempt to contact these taxpayers by mail and by phone to resolve the balance due. The contractor is authorized to discuss payment options, including setting up an Installmen­t Payment Agreement (IPA) with taxpayers. However, all payments must be made directly to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Collection agencies are required to respect taxpayer rights and comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. In addition, the private firm can’t take enforcemen­t actions against any taxpayer or assets located within New York State.

Taxpayers shouldn’t respond to calls if they’re unaware of having any tax debt. To check for unpaid tax debt, they can create an Online Services account or contact the NYS Tax Department at 518- 457-5434.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA