Beware the #IdesofMarch and the #IdentityThieves of spring

Beware the Ides of March and the ide-ntity thieves of spring. Historically, the former was the date Romans settled debts accrued during the previous year and it marked Julius Caesar’s assassination.  These days, though the latter pop up throughout the year, they seem to thrive during tax season when they can pose as IRS agents or tax preparation software representatives to con well-intentioned citizens of their hard-earned money. According to last week’s Federal Trade Commission report on fraud and identity theft, 1.1 million people reported that they were victims of fraud last year and lost a total of $905 million. The IRS posts a list of scams on the website and, every year that list grows. You can find it here. While these scammers are becoming more sophisticated each year, their approach remains reasonably consistent. They prey on their victim’s good faith by pretending to represent the government, a relative in trouble, a well-known business or a company’s technical support. Never give your personal information directly to people who solicit it, either by email or phone. The IRS, for instance, will always send a letter to notify you of any fines or underpayment and will never demand immediate payment. Likewise, no tax preparation software representative, like Turbo Tax, will call or email you to solicit further person information from you. Be very wary of people who solicit charitable donations from you and demand immediate payment. Do not donate to a charity or individual through Facebook Messenger, because it’s too difficult to verify the identity of the person or charity behind the profile. Likewise, be very wary of people who contact you regarding any sweepstakes you may have won, especially if you didn’t enter. If you ever have any questions regarding a phone call or email you’ve received, call our office before you respond. We’ll be glad to help you determine the veracity of the request. As Caesar said, “Men are… | Read More »

Five tips to protect you from scammers

Last week we received two threatening voicemail messages on our home phone. The callers suggested we owed the IRS money and that a search warrant had been issued for our arrest. Here’s the thing: My husband has worked in law enforcement for nearly three decades, and I work in the wealth management industry. We knew for certain that those calls were fake. Still, they were creepy. On Wednesday, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced the arrest of five people in Miami, who are accused of tricking 1,500 people into paying a total of $2 million to a fake IRS account. This is just one example of a wide-reaching scheme that has scammed 6,400 victims out of more than $36.5 million, an average loss of $5,700. One report suggested that scams like this have increased 250 percent in the first quarter of 2016. As software and information mining technology becomes more sophisticated and widely available, consumers need to become even more vigilant. Here are some tips to help prevent you from becoming a victim of scams like this: Know that the IRS would never call or email you. They will only contact you via postal mail. If someone calls you and says they are representing the IRS, you know this is a scam. Don’t transfer funds from your account to a government account through a third party. In this recent incident, scammers demanded payment in iTunes and Toys R Us gift cards. At least 328 people paid out a total of $1.4 million this way. There is no way a legitimate government agency would ask you to pay them through a store gift card. Understand that there is an appeal process. The IRS will never demand immediate payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. If you get an email asking you to visit a website or answer personal questions,… | Read More »