Posts Tagged ‘tax fraud’

Protect Yourself From Fake Charity Scams

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making A Donation

Charity Scams - Ohio CP A Firm

Would you be able to spot the charity scam? Even if you are 99 percent certain the check you are about to write will go to a well-respected nonprofit organization, it makes since to ask yourself a few questions. Read on to find out which ones.

From identity theft and tax fraud to criminals finding ways to hack into your company’s network, we are learning every day that it’s simply not safe to let your guard down – for anyone or anything. Unfortunately, that mindset should apply when you are considering gifting a charitable donation as well.

Some fraudsters, in an attempt to prey on the generosity of strangers, have begun to solicit funds for fake charities particularly during and immediately after tax season. But you can shut down these scams by asking yourself these critical questions.

Read also: Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Is this the charity I know and love or is it a spin off?

We are a sucker for the brands we know and love, and criminals will invoke similar names, attributes, branding to trip you up and get you to write that check. Even if you are 99 percent certain the check you are about to write will go to a well-respected nonprofit organization, it makes since to conduct a quick search online to remove all doubt. Two resources to consider are:

  • The Exempt Organization Select Check Tool – this search tool is designed to help you determine the legitimacy of the not-for-profit in question by providing users with information about the organization’s federal tax status and filings.
  • Guidestar – this online resource is great for users who want to find out about the validity of tax-exempt organizations as well as other faith-based nonprofits, community foundations and other groups that are typically not required to register with the IRS.

Do nonprofit organizations ask for personal information?

Don’t make it easy for a fraudster to steal your identity by willingly providing them with your Social Security Number. Legitimate nonprofit organizations will never need your SSN to complete a transaction and they should never need to retain any of your personal information for their records – this includes passwords.

Should my donation be in the form of a check or is it OK to give cash?

Yes! For your own security, and tax purposes, be sure to establish a paper trail. The best way to do this is to avoid making any type of cash donations. Instead, every time you give money to a charity, consider using a check or credit card to establish proof of the transaction. Not only is it important to establish a paper trail as a safety measure, it will help you when to go to claim the contribution on next year’s tax return.

I’m still not sure if it’s a valid nonprofit organization?

If the questions above don’t provide you with the reassurance you need, reach out to a trusted advisor who can help you identify whether a particular charitable organization is reputable or not while giving you pointers to help you protect your hard-earned dollars as well as your identity.

 By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

Check out these articles to learn to learn about other fraud scenarios taxpayers should know about.

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Phishing Scam Is A Threat To Ohio Businesses

Monday, March 28th, 2016
IRS Phishing Scam - Ohio CPA Firm

You can take a proactive stance when it comes to protecting your company from these scams by encouraging your employees to pay close attention to emails that request sensitive information, such as the names of employees, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and/or salary information or copies of employee’s W-2 information.

The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) is echoing phishing scam alerts made by the IRS earlier this month in an effort to protect businesses and employees state-wide from identity theft and tax fraud.

Read Also: Payroll, HR Departments Targeted By Cyber Criminals

According to ODT, payroll and human resources offices at companies nationwide – including some in Ohio – reportedly received emailed requests that appear to be sent from a high ranking member of the company’s management team requesting confidential payroll data. While the emails appear to be legitimate, they are actually being sent by cybercriminals who are looking to fool employees into sending them detailed payroll and W-2 information. The imposters then use the information to file fraudulent tax returns.

“The scam has worked on more than 30 companies resulting in the theft of W-2 tax information for thousands of current and former employees,” ODT’s news release states. “The W-2 form contains an employee’s Social Security number, salary and other confidential data. This information enables thieves to create a realistic looking, but fraudulent tax return requesting a tax refund that is then filed with Ohio or other states, and the IRS.”

The frequency of tax fraud and identity theft continues to increase at an alarming rate. This tax season alone, the IRS reported an approximate 400 percent increase in phishing and malware incidents – a surge that was addressed back in February.

“If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Everybody has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”

You can take a proactive stance when it comes to protecting your company from these scams by encouraging your employees to pay close attention to emails that request sensitive information, such as the names of employees, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and/or salary information or copies of employee’s W-2 information. You can also let them know that they should never send sensitive information until a conversation takes place, either in-person or over the phone, with the member of management seeking the information. You can also check out the information provided here for general insight from ODT that could be used to help your employees identify phishing attempts and email scams.

If your Ohio business has been the victim of or experienced this or any other type of email phishing scheme, contact ODT immediately at 800.282.1780 to protect against potential tax fraud and safeguard Ohio taxpayer dollars.

Those who are interested in learning more about the increasing threat of cybercrime should check out The Columbus Cybersecurity Series. Presentations are scheduled to take place throughout the year and will focus on ways to help business owners learn more about cyber threats. The first installment is scheduled for Wednesday, April 6. The event is free but registration is required to attend. Attendees will walk away with new insight into these attacks as well as tips and advice that will help you protect your business.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want to protect your employees from identity theft and tax fraud or need help recovering? Check out these articles:

How Can You Protect Yourself From Tax Fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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Ohio’s Identity Theft Quiz Returns – With Modifications

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Last year, Ohio’s Department of Taxation rolled out the Identification Confirmation Quiz, which required many Ohioans to prove their identities before receiving a refund. Needless to say, there were more than a few unhappy campers. However, despite its shortcomings, the quiz did what it was supposed to do – helped thwart tax fraud, which is why the Ohio tax quiz will make another appearance in 2016.

Read Also: How To Recover From Identity Theft & Tax Fraud

So, how successful was the quiz at stopping fraudsters from stealing refunds? Very. One Ohio news source reported that the quiz helped identify an estimated 234,336 fraudulent refund requests worth $259.1 million in 2015. The year prior, only 64,693 requests were reportedly stopped.

“We are committed to combating tax fraud and ensuring that tax refunds are paid only to legitimate filers,” said Joe Testa, Ohio tax commissioner, in an op-ed piece on the Ohio Bar Association’s website on Jan. 6. “We believe we’re among the leaders in the country in aggressively combating these fraud schemes. Last year, the Identity Confirmation Quiz was instrumental in that fight.”

Testa did go on to say that, after reviewing feedback from last year’s tax season, changes were made to the types of questions asked in an attempt to improve the entire process while facilitating a better experience overall. He said that further improvements were made to the department’s tax return analysis, which should result in fewer taxpayers from being required to take the quiz in order to receive a refund.

Tax fraud and identity theft continues to be a major problem throughout the nation, but you don’t have to stand by and do nothing. This article will provide you with some tips to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want more safety tips to help get you through tax season unscathed? Check out these articles:

Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

When Scammers Demand That You Pay Up, IRS Says You Should Hang Up

Let’s Talk About The F-Word

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Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Income tax identity theft and refund fraud has become a huge problem over the last few years; and while billions of dollars are finding their way into the pockets of fraudsters, the IRS is working hard to shut down these schemes.

The IRS paid roughly $5.8 billion dollars in fraudulent refunds to identity thieves over the course of the 2013 filing season. While that is a huge number, it could have been a lot worse. During the same time period, the amount the IRS successfully prevented or recovered totaled around $24.2 billion. But these statistics only take into consideration the fraud we know about.

Identity theft isn’t just a threat during tax season, scammers are exploiting a lot of cracks in your armor. Listen to episode 12: the great data saver on unsuitable on Rea Radio for insight from Joe Welker, CISA, Rea’s IT Audit Manager

The Unknown Number

While it is nice to know that the IRS is working hard to prevent identity theft and refund fraud, the truth is that we don’t yet have all the information to determine how bad the income tax fraud epidemic really is. This means that we continue to be at risk of becoming a fraud victim again this tax season. Perhaps if we knew how many fraudulent tax returns went on to be processed and how many billions of dollars were paid out to scammers looking to make a quick buck we could finally make some educated assumptions about the likelihood of being defrauded out of your refund check.

I don’t like not having all the necessary information.

Read Also: Ohio Department of Taxation Stops Thieves From Stealing Millions

This year, income tax fraud is expected to be higher than ever. This video, produced by abc6 out of Columbus, Ohio, shines more light on the topic of identity theft in Ohio.

Calling In Reinforcements

The IRS has realized that identity theft and refund fraud are threats that are showing no signs of going away. So the agency has requested help. The Internal Revenue Service, in cooperation with state tax administrators and tax industry leaders, has formed a public-private sector partnership to identify and test more than 20 new data elements on tax return submissions that will be shared with the IRS to detect and prevent fraudulent filings. The software industry is doing its part by putting enhanced identity validation requirements in place to protect customers and their personal information from identity thieves.

As of October 2015, 34 state departments of revenue and 20 tax industry members have signed memorandums of understanding regarding coalition’s roles, responsibilities and information sharing measures. More states are expected to sign on later.

Taxpayers Are Encouraged To Fight Back Against Fraud

Over the last 3 years, the IRS has initiated more than 3,000 fraud investigations. Those investigations have gone forward to convict and sentence close to 2,000 thieves to around 40 months in prison apiece. But there is still much to be done. They are doing their part.  We as taxpayers have to do ours.

In January, the IRS launched the “Taxes. Security. Together.” initiative to educate taxpayers on income tax identity theft and ways they can safeguard their information and protect themselves. According to the agency, there are several ways you can protect yourself from identity theft – especially during tax season:

  • Keep your computer secure
  • Avoid phishing email and malware
  • Protect your personal information

Above all, choose your tax preparer wisely and make sure they take their responsibility to safeguard your information very seriously. A tax preparer can also help if you do encounter a situation in which your information could be compromised.

By Joseph Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

Want to take steps to ensure that you won’t be a fraud victim this year? These articles feature information that can help.

Should I still be concerned about identity theft and tax fraud?

How can you protect yourself from tax fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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Should I still be concerned about identity theft and tax fraud?

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

This article was published in the July 2015 issue of Columbus Business First – Ask The Expert.

Identity theft and tax fraud are problems that show no signs of stopping. This year, in an attempt to provide an added layer of protection, taxpayers in Ohio had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Ohio Department of Taxation’s (ODT) newest fraud safety measure – the Identification Confirmation Quiz.

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We hear about cases of fraud every week, but steps are being taken to slow it down and ultimately stop it.

While you may have heard your friends and family comment (perhaps unfavorably) about this added step, government officials have said that the quiz helped thwart countless attempts to steal refund checks from Ohio taxpayers this year. During the 2014 tax season, fraudsters pocketed more than $250 million worth of taxpayer refunds, prompting the need for additional safety measures. Due to its success, the ODT expects the quiz to become a mainstay of your tax prep routine.

But just because tax season is over, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down – quite the contrary. When it comes to protecting your identity, you must remain vigilant. Whether you are aware of it or not, criminals are still looking for ways to steal your personal identification information for a myriad of uses.

Do you know what to do if your ID is compromised? Visit www.reacpa.com and click on the “Tools” button in the top navigation bar. From there, you can read our compilation piece How to Recover from Identity Theft & Refund Fraud for more insight and information that can help you recover from identity theft and tax fraud.

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Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

You get a call from a man who said he was from the IRS and was informing you that criminal activity was found after the IRS performed an audit on your past taxes. Then he asks if you had a criminal lawyer to represent you. And as you tried to get a word in edgewise, he told you not to interrupt him because the IRS and local authorities were recording your phone call. Pretty unnerving, right?

Well, unfortunately, this phone call actually took place with a client. And these types of phone calls are happening constantly. Back in April, the IRS issued a warning for consumers about phone scams targeting taxpayers. During the 2013 tax filing season numerous phone scams occurred, but the IRS has seen an increase in these scams since then. Because the IRS believes that these incidents will continue to plague taxpayers, it’s important to be vigilant for these kinds of calls.

The 4-1-1 On These IRS Phone Scams

  • Some taxpayers who received these calls were told they’re entitled to a big tax refund, or that they owe a lot of money to the IRS that needs to be paid immediately. Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t contact you via phone about these matters. If you ever owe the IRS money, you’ll be sent a written notification via mail.
  • The IRS will never ask you for personal financial information over the phone, such as your credit or debit card information. If you’re asked for this information from someone claiming they’re from the IRS, don’t give it and report the incident immediately to the IRS.
  • Some IRS scammers use fake names/surnames (most of the time these names are common) and IRS badge numbers when they identify themselves.
  • It’s possible that a scammer knows and can tell you the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • The phone number that a scammer calls you from could look like it’s from the IRS toll-free number.
  • If you take one of these scam calls, you may receive a bogus follow-up email to make it look like it is a legitimate inquiry from the IRS.
  • You may be threatened with jail time or driver’s license suspension from one of these scammers. They may then hang up on you and then call back pretending to be the police or DMV, further trying to prove their claim to you.

What Should You Do If You Get One Of These Calls?

So have you received one of these calls? If so, and you’re not sure the next step, here’s what you should do:

  • If you think you might owe taxes or there may be an issue with your taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. Someone at the line can help you determine if you indeed have a payment due.
  • If you feel you received this call unexpectedly and know you have no IRS issues, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

In light of these increasing incidents, be on the lookout and don’t fall prey to these scams. Hang up if you’re uncomfortable with the call. And know that the IRS would never ask for personal financial information over the phone or in an email. If you receive any suspicious emails, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Ohio Tax Help

If you’re ever unsure about anything you received from the IRS, whether it be a letter, a phone call or email, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine if the inquiry is legitimate, and assist you with responding.

Author: Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

Looking for other articles on how to protect you and your business? Check out these articles:

How Can Heartbleed Affect You and Your Business’s Online Identity?

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

Are You Secure? Cyber Security Targets Employee Benefit Accounts

 

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How can you protect yourself from tax fraud?

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Tax identity theft is an increasingly enormous problem. The IRS has been bombarding us with warnings of identity theft and scams this tax season.

Here’s a summary of some of the latest information you should know. (more…)

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