The Department of Revenue recently received information that scam artists continue to target Pennsylvania taxpayers with a scam involving letters from the "Tax Processing Unit." The letters make threats, including the seizure of taxpayers' property unless they immediately pay back taxes.
This recurring scam has been reported to the department several times in recent years. It follows a common strategy that involves scam artists posing as a public official or a government entity. The goal is to cause confusion and use high-pressured tactics to swindle money from unsuspecting victims.
Understanding the Scam
Taxpayers have reported receiving these fraudulent notices through the mail from the "Tax Processing Center," the "Tax Processing Unit," the "Benefits Suspension Unit," or other similar entities with deceiving names. Many of the notices make dubious claims or include suspicious details, such as:
- The notices have come from "Westchester County Public Judgment Records," "Nassau County Public Judgment Records," "Denver County Public Judgment Records" or other locations outside of Pennsylvania.
- The letters includes the statement, "Due to unpaid taxes to the State of Pennsylvania…" Legitimate notices would reference the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- The letters say a "Distraint Warrant" has been filed and a lien will be placed on any property the taxpayer owns or acquires in the future unless they pay their tax debt in full. In some cases, the notices further claim "the warrant serves the same function as a court judgment."
- The letters direct the taxpayer to call a toll-free number within 15 days of receiving the notice to avoid further enforcement. The notice also falsely claims that failing to respond in time will result in additional penalties and lead to a "default judgement."
Tips to Avoid This Scam
The Department of Revenue is encouraging Pennsylvanians to keep the following tips in mind to safeguard against this scam and others:
Look Closely for Imposters: Many times con artists will pose as a government entity or an official business. If you are contacted through the mail, phone or email, do not provide personal information or money until you are absolutely sure you are speaking to a legitimate representative.
Examine the Notice: Con artists often design vague communications to cast a wide net to lure in as many victims as possible. Examine the notice for identifying information that can be verified. Look for blatant factual errors and other inconsistencies, such as a fake return address. If the notice is unexpected and states 'This Is Your Final Notice,' take a moment and verify its legitimacy. The Department of Revenue will send multiple letters to taxpayers if there is a legitimate liability owed.
Unusual Payment Methods: Avoid scenarios where you are asked to pay your debt with reloadable debit cards, gift cards or money wiring services. The Department of Revenue and other government agencies will never ask you to satisfy an outstanding liability using these payment methods.
Conduct Research Online: Use the information in a potentially fraudulent notice, such as company name, address or telephone number, to conduct a search online. Look for information to confirm if a scam has been reported by other people or government agencies.
Steps To Follow if You Have a Question
If you receive a suspicious notice, don't call the toll-free number provided. Instead, directly contact the appropriate tax agency through a published phone number or web site.
If you have questions about your federal taxes, contact the
IRS. For local property taxes, contact your local taxing authority.
If your question pertains to your Pennsylvania personal income tax return or a potential state tax liability, contact the department's Customer Experience Center by calling 717-787-8201. The call center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Pennsylvanians can also contact the department via its
Online Customer Service Center. This online option provides taxpayers the option to submit questions through a secure process that is similar to sending an email. This is also where taxpayers can find answers to thousands of common tax-related questions.