People who owe the IRS large amounts of money sometimes reach out in desperation to others for help. But an Ansonia woman who saw a commercial for tax relief was shocked and angered about what happened when she did just that.
"They cleaned out the savings' they cleaned out the checking," said Doreen Duhancik.
A company called Tax10,000 suggests in advertisements that it can help settle your debt with the IRS for pennies on the dollar, but a disclaimer says, "Results are not typical. You may not meet IRS eligibility requirements for this program. Even if you do, you should not expect to reduce your taxes by this much."
But the fine print wasn’t what caught the attention of Duhancik and her husband.
"My husband kept seeing it. You know kept seeing we help. We help. We help," explained Duhancik. "And he said please hon just do that."
So Duhancik called to ask questions about this offer that seemed too good to be true.
She learned it would cost about $1,700 and gave the person on the phone her bank account information. However, Duhancik said she never signed the papers giving them legal authority to start the work.
"I knew immediately there is no way that I could do this," she said.
But once Tax 10,000 had her bank account information, Duhancik says a company called Tax Compliance Center took a first payment of $875 days later, leaving her account balance -$124. Although, the company didn’t do any work.
"I asked them for the money back and I basically got hung up on," said Duhancik.
Duhancik says that when she called Tax10,000 back, she was transferred around and nobody seemed to have answers about her money.
Another disclaimer in the commercial could explain why she and the Troubleshooters had trouble tracking down Duhancik’s and her husband’s money.
"The advertiser does not provide tax relief services, but only refers you to a company that helps people negotiate with the IRS," it says.
Tax attorney Fred L. Baker warns that some tax relief companies are not only hard to contact if there is a problem, it’s hard to verify their credentials.
"You don’t even know if the person you are talking to has the education, the skills or the experience to actually deal with your problem," said Baker.
Its website suggests Tax10,000 is owned by a company called Lead Generation Technologies.
The Troubleshooters called Lead Generation Technologies to try to get Duhancik’s money back. We spoke with a man named Tom Moyes, who employees said is the company's chief operating officer. He declined to comment on Duhancik's money and denied any link between Lead Generation Technologies and Tax10,000. Now our phone number is blocked from calling the company.
However, the day after the call to Lead Generation Technologies, something surprising happened.
"A woman called me up and said, 'This is The Tax Group. We are letting you know that we are cutting you a check,," said Duhancik.
A company called Tax Group Center made the refund. It's the third company with Duhancik’s personal information. They declined to comment on the matter.
Duhancik is happy now, but her initial feelings of fear and uncertainty about owing the IRS are some of what helps make tax relief companies boom with business.
"The IRS has monstrous collection ability," said attorney Baker. "They have tools that no other creditor has."
And when you don’t pay them…
"They can file liens without going to court. They can attached your wages , and they can go in actually grab your assets," Baker added.
In August 2014, the Federal Trade Commission mailed refund checks totaling more than $16 million to more than 10,000 people who the FTC says were scammed by a company called American Tax Relief. The company also claimed it could reduce tax debts, but the FTC says customers were bilked out their cash, not helped.
Tax10,000 doesn’t have any complaints the Troubleshooters could find. But know that once you give them your banking and personal information, it could get routed out to other companies you may or may not want to do business with. And it may be very difficult to get a refund if something goes wrong.
The IRS website has information about how to settle debts on your own, by submitting what’s called an "offer in compromise." But you must qualify for the program.
In some cases, you may want to hire a professional, but do your research.