Scams Feed

Unemployment benefits can help relieve some of the sting of losing your job. But there are downsides. The monthly amounts again are fully taxable. And during the COVID pandemic, criminals have had a field day getting fraudulent payments, and causing tax troubles for those individuals whose identities they stole. The COVID-19 pandemic and employment still are inextricably linked. When the coronavirus hit the United States in 2020, the concern was for the companies that had to shut down, and their employees who suddenly were without paychecks. Congress passed a series of COVID relief bills that provided relief options for companies... Read more →


New phishing scam targets tax pros, but everyone needs to be on guard The Internal Revenue Service today warned tax professionals about a new spearphishing scam. I'm surprised we made it into February before the latest tax scam appeared. This email scam uses the IRS logo. It also tries to ramp up the already urgent tax season by using a variety of subject lines, such as "Action Required: Your account has now been put on hold." The IRS provided bogus text of this scam below. Your account has now been put on hold ALL preparers are required to apply security... Read more →


If you use the standard deduction, this tax break can help cut your tax bill, but only if you make your donations by Dec. 31. And if charitable organizations get their wish, the tax break will be extended past 2021, and worth as much as $4,000 ($8,000 for couples). During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans needed help than ever before to pay bills, feed their families, and generally just try to retain their pre-pandemic lives. To do that, many turned to nonprofits for help. Unfortunately, charitable organizations found themselves in similar straits. "2020 should have been... Read more →


If you think online crooks are just going after big businesses, think again. Smaller firms are prime cyberattack targets. Go big or go home, unless you're a cybercriminal targeting businesses. More than 70 percent of cyberattacks are aimed at companies with 100 or fewer employees. That revelation is from the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners as this year's National Tax Security Awareness Week was winding down. It's also this weekend's By the Numbers figure. In going after smaller business, con artists target credit card or payment information, the business identity information, or data on employees. "Thieves may... Read more →


Gift cards make great presents for family and friends, but they cannot be used to pay taxes. (Gift card wreath via Pinterest) We all have people on our holiday gift lists who are hard — OK, impossible — to shop for. When I struggle to find the perfect gift, I follow my personal credo: Say it with cash. Or, more often, with plastic. Yes, I give gift cards. And if family and friends are reading this, I am happy to get them. But one place where gift cards aren't welcome is the Internal Revenue Service. This IRS is making a... Read more →


Shutterstock There's one terrifying ghoul who hangs around long after Halloween. In fact, he and his ilk have been busy all year. It's the tax scammer. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just this week warned that scammers are sending yet another phony Internal Revenue Service email about COVID-19 relief payments. "There's a fake IRS email that keeps popping into people's inboxes. It says that you can get a third Economic Impact Payment (EIP) if you click a link that lets you 'access the form for your additional information' and 'get help' with the application," says Cristina Miranda of the FTC's... Read more →


This has been a wonderful weather week here in the Austin area. Nights have been cool. Days have topped out in the seasonal upper 70s. But today is a tad warmer, a trend expected to continue through October. So it's goodbye to our brief autumn in Central Texas, and back to closing windows and cranking up the air conditioner. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. Although it was hot this summer, it wasn't the hottest since we moved here 16 years ago. And after February's devastating ice storm, I'm never complaining about warm or warmer than normal or hot... Read more →


FTC Chair Lina Khan was one of the officials appearing at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in June on the agency's plan to modernize consumer protection. (Screen shot from the committee's hearing video) Most Americans don't pay too much attention to who's in charge of the various federal agencies. But a few now are learning about Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan since her agency has renewed its antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. And others know the Biden Administration appointee because they are getting phishing emails using Khan's name in a COVID-19 payment scam. The email, purportedly from... Read more →


You'd think after almost 18 months of dealing with COVID-19, we'd all be wise to related scams. Apparently, we aren't. The coronavirus pandemic has been Christmas for con artists looking to cash in on all-too-common tales of woe and hardship, writes Los Angeles Times business columnist David Lazarus. He leads off his article with the tale of a crook impersonating the neighbor of a California couple. In an email that looked to be from the neighbor's real online address, the crook invoked an extended family COVID tragedy. But while carefully crafted, the con wasn't quite slick enough to fool these... Read more →


COVID-19 just won't let go. A tropical system is heading for the Gulf of Mexico. And it's Friday the 13th. Yep, today is a trifecta of the unwanted. The bad news — of course I'm starting with it on this day! — is that every year has at least one Friday the 13th. The ominous, for some, day shows up one to three times a year. There were two in 2020. The good news for 2021 is that today is the only Friday the 13th of the year. The last time that happened was Friday, May 13, 2016. If you... Read more →


Don't fall for scammers who falsely say they can help you get, or get more, of the enhanced Child Tax Credit amounts that started going out this week. Instead, get help from a tax pro or use the Internal Revenue Service's online tools. The Advance Child Tax Credit (AdvCTC) payments started showing up in bank accounts today. Folks who'll get the enhanced early credit amounts by snail mail should see those U.S. Treasury checks soon. The Internal Revenue Service says it delivered today the first batch of the early Child Tax Credit payments, worth roughly $15 billion, to around 35... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service has wrapped up its 2021 version of the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. In announcing the cons by category, the agency was able to elaborate more on each trick on the list. In case you missed the posts earlier this week, here are the ol' blog's posts on each of them: Pandemic related scams, aka Part 1, which focuses on attempts steal COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) and other tax-related coronavirus relief distributed by the IRS, from Monday, June 28; Personal information cons, or Part 2, with a look at phishing, its cousin voice phishing or vishing,... Read more →


We regular folks tend to have a complicated relationship with the wealthy. And by complicated, I mean one-sided, unrealistic, and too often reverential. Being aspirational, we love to gawk at what they can get away with because of their money, and dream of one day being in their Manolos and mansions. That's fueled way too many not-really reality shows. Such hopes also are a big reason scammers can convince wealthy wannabes to fall for schemes that peddle false hopes of large tax deductions. In real-life tax reality, these dodges simply are a way to push hopeful taxpayers further away from... Read more →


What's the result when the worst things happen? Too often, it's terrible people taking advantage of good people. This occurs with alarming regularity in the tax world following tragedies and disasters. Con artists use horrible events to convince compassionate individuals to donate to groups that will help out the victims. What really happens all too often is the caring donors become victims, too. Fake charities are just one type of scam in today's third installment of the IRS' Dirty Dozen for 2021. This category of tax ruses in which dishonest people trick others into doing something illegal often includes fraudulent... Read more →


It's Dirty Dozen Week at the Internal Revenue Service. That's right, a week of examining the 12 most common and/or worst tax scams that have cropped up over the last year. I've been blogging about the annual IRS scam list for as long as Don't Mess With Taxes has been around. Sadly, some of the scams that I noted in my first list post back in the spring of 2006 — phishing for taxpayer identity details, fake charities, unscrupulous tax preparers — tend to show up year after year. You can see the repeat offenders in the 2019 and 2020... Read more →


Don't fall, regardless of your age, for tax or other types of fraudulent schemes. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced last week that it is sending checks totaling more than $316,000 to 10,689 people who lost money to a student loan debt relief scheme. The FTC began investigating this scam last year after reports of a company telling consumers that, for an upfront fee of $699 and a monthly fee of $39, the company would permanently lower or eliminate the individuals' student loan debts. In reality, says the FTC, the payments could change every year, and loan forgiveness was not... Read more →


It's April. You know what that means. Major League Baseball is back! Yep, the return of The Boys of Summer takes top billing this month since the Internal Revenue Service pushed the usual April 15 Tax Day to May 17. I'll be spending this Opening Day doing what I do every year when the professional baseball season starts: watching games. All 30 MLB teams are in action today, so that's a lot of innings to occupy my time. Update: Today's meeting of my East Coast team, the Baltimore Orioles, at the Red Sox's Fenway Park is postponed until Friday due... Read more →


Ah, college days. Studying, working between and after classes and now trying to avoid becoming a tax scam victim. (Photo by Tim Gouw via Unsplash) Many college students shoehorn jobs into their study schedules to help pay for their continuing educations. In addition to pocketing that cash throughout the year, many of these young workers also look forward at filing time to tax refunds from their jobs. So do crooks. The Internal Revenue Service today warned of an ongoing phishing scam in which the perpetrators are targeting education institutions, including students and staff with email addresses ending in the .edu... Read more →


The third round of coronavirus economic impact payments are on their way. So are con artists trying to convince financially strapped folks that there are easier ways to get the government payments of up to $1,400 per person. Don't fall for the lies. Some of the just-approved $1,400 COVID-19 relief payments will be delivered by local postal carriers. Others will get their coronavirus cash by direct deposit or Treasury-authorized debit cards. Be on the lookout for the payments, as well as crooks trying to steal them and your identity. The latest COVID-19 economic relief plan, officially known as the American... Read more →


Tax preparers nationwide already are working on clients' returns. Crooks also are working to steal info on and from those tax professionals. The Internal Revenue Service won't start accepting and processing 2020 tax returns until Feb. 12. Tax professionals, however, have been working of their clients returns since the new year arrived. That means tax criminals also doing their so-called jobs. The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and tax industry today announced that there's a new scam email being sent to tax professionals. The phishing message impersonates the IRS and attempts to steal Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs). While... Read more →