Bamboozled October 27, 2016: Scammers use Obamacare confusion to target new victims

 

IRS Form 1095 Relating to Health Insurance
Internal Revenue Service Form 1095-A relating to the Affordable Care Act. (ThinkStock.com)
 While the presidential candidates argue over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, and as reports of premium hikes and insurers pulling out of ACA marketplaces plague the program, scammers are taking notice.

The bad guys are trying to capitalize on the Obamacare confusion to steal from you.

Scammers are sending fake tax bills to consumers, saying money is owed related to the taxpayer’s health care coverage and Obamacare, according to a new warning from the IRS.

The notices, labeled CP2000, are for the 2015 tax year.

Now, a CP2000 notice is a real thing. It’s sent by the IRS when income reported from third party sources — such as an employer — does not match the income reported on the tax return, the IRS said.

“Unlike the fake, it provides extensive instructions to taxpayers about what to do if they agree or disagree that additional tax is owed,” the IRS said. “A real notice requests that checks be made out to ‘United States Treasury.'”

The phony notices may come by regular mail or by email with an attachment, the IRS said.

The fakes say they’re coming from an address in Austin, Texas, and the notices say the problem is related to the Affordable Care Act. It then requests information about your coverage, the IRS said.

Screenshot_1.jpg
A look at the real CP2000. 

It includes a payment voucher “105C,” the IRS said, and requests checks be written to “I.R.S.” and sent to the “Austin Processing Center” at a post office box. The emailed versions of the scam will include a payment link.

The IRS will never, never, ever send you an email to collect a tax.

If you’ve received one of these notices, report it to the IRS by forwarding the email to phishing@irs.gov, or report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

Learn more about how to report tax fraud here.

OTHER IRS SCAMS

Scammers have been cashing in on IRS impersonation scams for years.

In fact, for the last tax season, the IRS reported a 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents.

Among the most popular scams on the IRS’ Dirty Dozen scam list:

ID Theft/Refund Fraud: Hucksters steal your identity and then file a fake tax return using your name and Social Security number. Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim.

Phone scams: Crooks will call you, saying they represent the IRS and that they’re calling to collect your overdue tax debt. The caller will often threaten arrest or deportation if the debt isn’t paid immediately.

Phishing: The con artists are especially fond of impersonating the IRS via email, another form of communication the IRS will never use for billing or notification purposes. If you click on a link or download an attachment from one of these emails, you could end up infecting your computer with malware or end up at a fake site, urged to share your personal information. Also note the IRS will never ask for payment via iTunes gift cards. 

The subsidized health insurance program enters its fourth year in New Jersey with only half the plans that were available last year.

One of the reasons these scams are so successful for con artists is that lots of people really do owe money to the government. A 2015 report by the Treasury Department found of the $1.3 trillion (yes, trillion) of receivables (not including taxes owed, by the way), $162.1 billion of debt is delinquent.

But the government’s attempts to recapture what it’s owed can be confusing for citizens in the wake of all these scams.

Government agencies can use third party debt collectors to try to get payments from taxpayers who really owe money to the IRS. Or from those who owe federal student loans, or mortgage debt, or judgments and others debts.

But it can be hard to tell the difference between the real debt collectors and the scammers.

And the 2015 budget legislation had a surprise tucked inside: government agency debt collectors can now use robocalls.

There’s legislation that would overturn that unpleasant addition, but we’re not there yet.

In any case, the IRS last month released the names of four third party contractors who can start collecting “certain overdue federal tax debts” from delinquent taxpayers.

You should know the debt collector names, just in case you’re on the list. They are CBE Group of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Conserve of Fairport, N.Y., Performant of Livermore, Cal. and Pioneer of Horseheads, N.Y.

But of course, scammers will probably start contacting taxpayers, now impersonating these legit debt collectors.

So if you’re contacted by someone claiming to be a debt collector for the IRS or another government agency, play it safe.

Don’t make any payments or share any personal information.

Instead, contact the IRS directly. Uncle Sam will be happy to tell you if you owe the government any money.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.