The Internal Revenue Service issued a warning Thursday cautioning taxpayers and tax professionals about a new scam revolving around the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, in which criminals are calling innocent taxpayers demanding they make an immediate tax payment through a prepaid debit card.

The IRS has been hearing reports about the scam around the country. It has been going on for a while, but in a new twist, the fraudster claims to be an IRS employee and tells the victim about two certified letters that have supposedly been sent through the mail but returned as undeliverable. The criminal threatens the taxpayer with arrest if a payment isn’t made right away via prepaid debit card. The fraudster informs the victim the card is linked to the EFTPS system when it actually is completely controlled by the fraudster. The scammer warns the taxpayer not to contact their tax preparer, an attorney or their local IRS office until after making the payment.

“This is a new twist to an old scam,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a statement. “Just because tax season is over, scams and schemes do not take the summer off. People should stay vigilant against IRS impersonation scams. People should remember that the first contact they receive from IRS will not be through a random, threatening phone call.”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen Bloomberg News

The IRS noted that the EFTPS is a free service offered by the Treasury Department for paying taxes, either through the Internet or by phone, and doesn’t require taxpayers to use a prepaid debit card. Since it’s an automated system, taxpayers don’t receive any phone calls from the IRS. Taxpayers have different options for paying an authentic tax bill and aren’t required to use a specific method.

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Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of AccountingToday.com, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.