Tim Morrissey

MADISON, Wis. – It’s the scam that seemingly won’t go away, and now Wisconsin authorities are reporting that the latest version of the Internal Revenue Service telephone hoax is starting to go around the state.

The updated scam is based on a change in procedure recently made by the IRS, which now has begun using four approved debt-collection companies to assist in collecting tax debts more than two years old.

In this new variant, victims are called by someone posing as an officer of one of these approved IRS debt-collection agencies, threatening a lawsuit or arrest if they don’t pay up immediately via prepaid debit card.

“Over the last six weeks, we’ve received 142 calls from consumers alerting us that they have been not necessarily the victim of this particular call, but they did get the call,” said Frank Frasetto, a division administrator at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “So, we know it’s continuing and it’s not going away.”

In what should be a tip that it’s a scam, victims are warned not to contact their tax preparers, attorneys or even the IRS until the payment is made. Frassetto advised consumers that the IRS makes initial contact with taxpayers only via the U.S. Postal Service. He said Wisconsin consumers need to remember that any threatening call demanding an immediate payment is a scam.

“First of all, the IRS does not call people, threaten them and demand payment,” he said. “And secondly, the previous twist was that people had to buy an iTunes gift card, not just your standard old prepaid debit card. That obviously is a huge red flag.”

Frassetto advised those receiving such a call to just hang up, but then to write down the phone number of the caller and report it so the state’s consumer-protection experts can help warn others.

“What we do is, we take this information,” he said, “and if we see a pattern emerging we try to alert other Wisconsin consumers of these things that are happening and to be on the lookout and to not be taken in by this particular fraud.”

These scam IRS calls can be reported via the state’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-422-7128, or by sending an email to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov. More information is online at treasury.gov and datcp.wi.gov.