Tax fraud Feed

Nothing says Merry Christmas like the disembodied Santa head lights (click for a closer, clearer view) that brighten our fireplace hearth each holiday season. (Please ignore my reflected selfie!) And yes, this and other Christmas decorations are already, before Thanksgiving, up at our house! Ho, Ho, Ho! I know we've yet to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I can tell that Christmas is near, too. How? Well, in addition to having already decorated our house (interior only so far for us, but ho-ho-holiday lights are already on some of our neighbors' houses) for Santa's annual arrival, I'm getting the usual year-end flood... Read more →


UPDATE, Oct. 13, 2017: Public and Congressional pressure, which included Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-Ohio) letter to the Treasury Department urging it to review and potentially bar Equifax from consideration in any new or renewed government contracts, has paid off for opponents of the credit reporting bureau deal. The IRS announced, per an Oct. 12 report by Politico, that it has temporarily suspended the $7.25 million, no-bid contract it awarded to Equifax to verify the identities of taxpayers when they create accounts on the tax agency's website. Driver's license data was among the personal info that identity thieves obtained in the... Read more →


Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith is grilled Oct. 3 about the credit company's security breach by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Click image to watch full hearing on YouTube) Human error, specifically one human's error, is why 145 million of us are worrying about what crooks will do with the data that was stolen earlier this year in a data breach of Equifax. Richard Smith, the credit reporting bureau's former CEO, in testimony before House Energy and Commerce Committee today blamed the initial failure to patch a known security risk on a specific individual. He did not... Read more →


Identity thieves got access to personal information on 143 million Americans by hacking into credit reporting bureau Equifax's data base in late July. If you have credit, you're screwed. Thanks Equifax. Equifax is one of three major companies that tracks the credit worthiness of American consumers. The other two are Experian and TransUnion. These repositories of how we pay, or don't, our bills are where lenders, landlords and even potential employers go for information before making decisions that affect our lives. Equifax also is where criminals went for all our personal data they need to steal our financial identities and... Read more →


Every computer user is familiar with the constant updates to software. So are identity thieves. And now these crooks are targeting tax professionals in a new phishing scam designed to steal usernames and passwords. The Internal Revenue Service and its state and tax industry Security Summit partners say that this latest impersonation scheme variant is a sophisticated scam designed to get information that can be used to file false tax returns and collect fraudulent tax refunds. It's the latest in a series of scams this summer that have targeted professional tax preparers. Software upgrade hook: This is the time of... Read more →


Alfred Hitchcock nailed it in his 1955 cat burglar-turned-romance starring Grace Kelly and Gary Grant. The pair teamed up, with Grant's character using his expertise as a former jewel thief, to catch a new criminal in the wealthy playground of Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Click film screenshot to watch the movie trailer on YouTube.) The Internal Revenue Service apparently is taking a hint from a Hollywood classic. It's thinking like identity thieves to catch identity thieves. That was among the messages from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in July 25 media teleconference. Cybercriminals are showing increasing savvy and tax expertise, particularly in... Read more →


Based on the fast and furious pace of tax scams this month, you'd think it was high tax season instead of summer. For the second time in just more than a week, the Internal Revenue Service has issued a new tax scam alert. (In case you missed it, the pervasive tax telephone scam was recently tweaked.) This latest scam warning is for tax professionals, who are receiving phishing emails purportedly from a tax software education provider. The fake communication asks for the tax preparers' help in repairing a failure in the message sender's sham database. To that fake end, the... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Education have a graduation gift for some students. The tax agency's income data retrieval tool that makes it easier to apply for federal financial college aid is once again operational for some applicants. This cool balloon was part of my neighbors' celebration of their son's graduation. Some Texas gusts, however, helped it take a post-graduation trip to our driveway. After snapping this photo (and Instagram video), I helped the light-headed fellow home. Since 2012, the IRS has made getting income information easier for students and their parents who are seeking financial help by... Read more →


Last week's cyberattack has affected more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries. The ransomware program known as WannaCry encrypts information on computers and demands targeted users pay $300 in order to regain access to their machines. The good news here in the U.S. is that so far, no federal systems have been affected by the global ransomware attack, according to Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, who appeared at today's regular White House press briefing. The bad news is that a few companies have been hit and the government is still unaware of who was behind the attack. And as this... Read more →


It was supposed to be the annual Capitol Hill review of how the current tax filing season is going. It was supposed to be a time for the Internal Revenue Service to shine since, as the IRS commissioner said during a public speech yesterday, it's been the smoothest filing season since he took the top job in December 2013. It wasn't. During a Senate Finance hearing today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen revealed more details of security breach connected to federal student aid applications that require inclusion of tax data. Student loan tax data security concerns: While 2017 filing season specifics... Read more →


Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, Texas, was famous in its heyday, part of which just happened to coincide with my youth, as a wonderful water park. No visit to relatives in nearby San Antonio was complete until we headed to Aquarena to ride in a glass-bottom boat, marvel at the mermaids and cheer Ralph the swimming pig as he made his famous swine dive. Click fish image for full video view of Aquarena Springs from a glass-bottom boat. The park is gone, replaced by a water research program under the auspices of Texas State University, or Southwest Texas State as... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation (CI) division is charged with putting tax and other financial crooks behind bars. That job has gotten tougher, according the man who heads the CI, primarily because of the loss of experienced agents. "We're at the same staffing level as 1956, which is just unbelievable when you think about it," CI Chief Richard Weber said during a press this week in conjunction with the release of the division's 2016 annual report. "There's still no realistic expectation of increasing that number anytime soon. It's very difficult to be able to do everything we are mandated... Read more →


It's Groundhog Day and for many folks that brings to mind the Bill Murray movie of the same name more than the Pennsylvania rodent who purportedly can forecast weather. Bill Murray as weatherman Phil Connors in the 1993 film "Groundhog Day." (Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures) In case you haven't seen it, in the 1993 Harold Ramis movie Murray is a television weatherman who, after being dispatched to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 2 to cover groundhog Punxsutawney Phil's emergence from his burrow, finds himself living the same day over and over and over again. Murray's character Phil (we see what you... Read more →


Remember that tax scam last spring where crooks posing as company executives sent emails asking for workers' payroll data? It was the one that fooled lots of folks, including a Milwaukee Bucks employee who thought that the message really did come from the NBA franchise's president. That chagrined Bucks' staffer sent the phishing crook 2015 tax year data on the team's employees, including his rank-and-file colleagues and highly-paid professional basketball players. Well, that tax scam is back. Email spoofs company CEO: The Internal Revenue Service says the email scam is now making its way across the nation for a second... Read more →


Do you have to file a return? Don't shoot the messenger, but the answer usually is yes. If you are a U.S. citizen or resident who made money last year, whether you must tell the Internal Revenue Service about it depends on three things: Your gross income, Your filing status, and Your age. The IRS created the table below to give you an idea of whether you should start getting your filing material together. A quick filing note for some older New Year's Day babies. The IRS says that if you were born on Jan. 1, 1952, you are considered... Read more →


Tax filing season 2017 opens today! Yes, that is cheering you're hearing. It's from folks who file their taxes early, usually because they are getting refunds. They also are fortunate that they have all the materials they need to fill out their returns. The key document for most taxpayers is their W-2 form. Employers aren't required to get these out until the end of the month, but some companies are quite efficient. And some taxpayers this year are going to discover something new on their W-2s. Verification code addition: Around 50 million of these officially named Wage and Income Statements... Read more →


Millions of taxpayers prepare their own returns using tax software. Even the Internal Revenue Service encourages this do-it-yourself approach with Free File. So it's no surprise that many tax professionals are looking at ways to retain and add to their client base. Unfortunately, crooks know this, too, and are taking advantage with a new phishing scam in which they target accounting and tax preparation firms and pose as potential clients. Instead of looking for help in completing their returns, the cybercrooks are trying to gather sensitive information from tax professionals that the criminals then will use to file fraudulent tax... Read more →


There weren't any major tax bills in 2016. That's going to change in some form in 2017 now that the Republicans control Congress and the White House. via GIPHY But there still were plenty of tax-related matters that got attention last year. Below is my list of top 10 tax stories of 2016, starting with the one I saw as most important. And as a bonus, I also pulled out my slightly cracked crystal ball -- really, who saw the presidential election turning out like it did? -- to forecast five tax issues that we're likely to see in 2017.... Read more →


Hello, 2017. For some of us, you sure took your sweet time. Others think you arrived a tad too soon. Few of us, however, are as ready to get our taxes as done-diddly-done as is Ned Flanders, Homer Simpson's annoying cheery neighbor. If you click the image, you'll see a GIF that gives you a good idea of Ned Flanders' obsessive-compulsive tendencies. While even a dedicated tax geek like myself thinks Neddie is a bit too filing gung-ho for the first day of the New Year, we all should take advantage of January's 31 days to get our 2016 taxes... Read more →


Most of us can use some extra cash. That's particularly true during the holiday shopping season. But unfortunately, recent emails I got from two federal financial officials offering unexpected windfalls are fake. Worse, the messages from Jacob Lew and Janet Yellen are identity theft phishing scams. ID theft impersonation scams: I know most of the ol' blog's loyal readers recognize this duo as, respectively, the U.S. Treasury Secretary and the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, popularly known as the Fed. As flattered as I might be to learn that Lew and Yellen follow my... Read more →