Scammers targeting northern Michigan in collections scheme

No matter what the season, tax scams seem to persist.

The latest in northern Michigan again threatens the target with dire consequences if they don’t resolve what’s claimed to be unpaid state taxes, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

An Emmet County taxpayer received what appeared to be an official-looking letter in the mail about an overdue tax bill, demanding the individual immediately contact a toll-free number to resolve the debt, the treasury department warned. The letter threatened to seize the taxpayer’s assets — including property, bank accounts and income — if the state tax debt goes unsettled, the treasury department stated in a news release.

The correspondence appeared credible because it used specific personal facts about that taxpayer’s real outstanding debt, pulled directly from publicly available information, the department advised.

Had the instructions been followed, the target likely would have made payment to a criminal, not on the state debt, according to the treasury department.

“Please don’t fall victim to this terrible scam,” State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks said. “Taxpayers have rights. If you have questions about an outstanding state tax debt, please contact us through a verified number so we can talk about options.”

While the state Treasury Department does correspond with taxpayers through official letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service, it provides several options to resolve a debt, along with information outlining taxpayer rights, officials said.

The Daily News regularly gets reports from readers about telephone scams or mail hoaxes seeking to prey on panic. Thankfully, most who call here have an inkling they’re being played and want to warn others.

The state treasury also emphasizes it will never:

— Initiate a phone call for personal information.

— Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, Treasury first will mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.

— Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested.

— Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal.

— Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Those who receive a letter from a scammer or have questions about their state debts should call Treasury’s Collections Service Center at 517-636-5265. A customer service representative can log the scam, verify outstanding state debts and provide flexible payment options.

Taxpayers who have received other calls from a scammer should report it them to the IRS through the web or by calling 800-366-4484.


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