NYS Tax Department warns of pandemic-related scams and shares helpful tips to avoid impostors posing as debt collectors
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance today alerted taxpayers to a variety of scam letters 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. You can view examples of these bogus collection letters and how they compare to official Tax Department correspondence here.
“These callous fraudsters, attempting to prey upon unsuspecting victims amid a pandemic, will be held accountable for their actions,” said New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt. “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.”
How to recognize a scam
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 social media 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 the most 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 from the 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.