Scam of the day – May 23, 2016 – Phony state lien notices

Large and small companies throughout the country are receiving phony notices of outstanding tax liens threatening actions such as seizing of bank accounts unless a settlement amount is paid. Recently the Massachusetts Department of Revenue issued a warning about such phony notices.  Making the problem worse is the fact that in many instances, these notices are sent to companies that may indeed have outstanding tax liens imposed upon them, however, the phony notices generally offer settlement of the claim for an exceedingly small amount when compared to the amount of the lien.  Companies are falling for this scam and sending payment of the offered settlement to the scammers.  These companies then end up still having an outstanding tax lien as well as losing the money they thought they paid in settlement.

Reproduced below is a sample of one of the phony notices presently being circulated.  There are a number of telltale signs that indicate that this notice is a scam. One distinctive error that would not immediately be apparent in this particular case is the reference to the “state of Massachusetts.”  Massachusetts is one of four states that refer to themselves as “Commonwealths” rather than “states.”  The others are Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Another telltale sign is the indication at the bottom of the page where it states “not affiliated with the IRS or any governmental institutions.  Results may vary from individual and on a case by case basis.”  Perhaps the most telling indication that this is a scam is the phony form indicates a debt account of $10,937 and a specific settlement amount of only $536.   It is important to remember that there is no official form, as this purports to be, that provides a proposed settlement amount on the form.

Although this scam notice is from Massachusetts, this scam is being repeated in other states around the country.

MA Fake Lien

 

TIPS

This scam is particularly troublesome because the scammers have often scoured public records including those at Registries of Deeds to find legitimate filings of outstanding tax liens which could lead an unwary company to fall for this scam.  Despite the telltale signs indicated above for immediately determining that this is a scam and not a legitimate communication from a state agency, if you have any thought that such a communication might be legitimate, you should still refrain from sending money or calling the numbers indicated on the notice.  Rather, contact the real state agency that issued the outstanding lien to confirm that such a notice is a scam.