Scams Feed

Here are 12 scam avoidance tips, six for catastrophe victims and six for those who want to help. Tropical Storm Beta hanging off the Texas Gulf Coast Monday, Sept. 21, afternoon. Image courtesy the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC). The Atlantic hurricane season has already made the record books. Fires are devastating vast areas of the Western United States. Unusual weather events like the Midwestern derecho have wrecked homes and businesses. That means millions of folks are looking for help. There are many sources of assistance, from charitable organizations to help people deal with a... Read more →


More than 160 million people have received the COVID-19 economic impact payment (EIP) that was approved in late March. Still, says the Internal Revenue Service, that's not everyone who's eligible for the relief money. In fact, the tax agency says around nine million Americans still are due the stimulus. But to get it this year, they need to contact the IRS. And the IRS will be sending them a special letter later this month to encourage them to file for the relief payment, prefer ally by Oct. 15. Don't have to file, but qualify for COVID cash: These nine-or-so million... Read more →


If tax it the time of coronavirus taught us anything, it's that tax professionals are indispensable. On the heels of getting a handle on the 2017 tax reform changes, tax pros this filing season were handed even more jobs. They helped people understand COVID-19 economic relief payments, what tax tasks were delayed until when and the Paycheck Protection Program. And now, just days after Tax Day 2020 finally came and went, another coronavirus stimulus package, no doubt with more tax implications, is in the works. The bottom line is that tax help from a reputable tax pro is critical, in... Read more →


You're following all the recommended pandemic precautions. You stay home. You have your groceries and meals delivered. If you must go out, it's for drive-through or curbside pickup of necessary items. You always wear a mask when you leave your home. But you still might not be safe from the latest iteration of the coronavirus outbreak. This time, though, it's not medical, but financial. Scammers are coming to us via emails and phone calls, using a variety of tricks to get their hands on our COVID-19 economic impact payments (EIPs) and other funds. The Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation (CI)... Read more →


Some people. Trying to survive a global pandemic isn't enough for them. They have to go and break the law, too. I'm not talking about defying a state's closure order or hawking subpar face masks online. Nope, two New England businessmen this week became the first individuals to be arrested and charged with fraud in connection with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The small business assistance program was created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help companies struggling due to the effects of the virus. David A. Staveley of Andover, Massachusetts, and David... Read more →


Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor a global pandemic stays protectively-masked U.S. Postal Service carriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. The COVID-19 economic relief payment checks really are in the mail. That means a whole new slew of coronavirus scams also are showing up via phone calls, as well as in people's mail boxes, both electronic and real-life curbside ones. Since millions of actual paper COVID-19 relief checks are being snail mailed, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is involved in the scam-fighting efforts. These law enforcement officers are joining other federal... Read more →


Treasury check image by frankieleon via Flickr CC The Internal Revenue Service is making good progress in getting millions of COVID-19 economic relief payments to eligible individuals. Most of the money so far has been directly deposited into recipients' bank accounts. Some folks, however, will be getting old-school paper checks. Paper check problems: This is a bit of a concern for two reasons. First, as with tax refunds issued by check and snail mailed to taxpayers, there's always the possibility that crooks could steal the relief payments from their curbside mail boxes. Second, some coronavirus crooks have created fake stimulus... Read more →


The Treasury Department says it's on schedule to get coronavirus economic recovery payments to folks' bank accounts next week. There's even better news for those who want to change the payment's delivery method from snail mail to direct deposit. Politico's Morning Tax newsletter reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Capitol Hill lawmakers that the online tool that could speed up delivery of the COVID-19 money also will up and running next week. That's the mechanism that, as I noted in yesterdays' post, whereby folks who've previously received refunds as paper checks sent via the U.S. Postal Service or didn't... Read more →


The specifics on how and when the Internal Revenue Service will issue the payments created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act have been changing. First, older filers were going to have to file a special return form to get the money. Now, the Treasury Department says the IRS will use eligible recipients' Social Security information and directly deposit them without requiring any additional action. As for when that will happen, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said yesterday that the delivery timetable has been accelerated. The IRS will start getting the money out to some next week. However,... Read more →


We definitely are no longer living in normal tax or other times. (Images from Young Frankenstein) April has always been a serious month for taxpayers. April 15 has been Tax Day for 65 years and since most of the millions of at-the-deadline filers tend to owe Uncle Sam, they're not very happy. This year, though, there is an even more solemn reason for no April fooling around. Things, tax and otherwise, have gotten very serious as the United States and the world fight the deadly coronavirus pandemic. On the tax front, new laws have been written and old ones adjusted... Read more →


Pixabay/CDC Coronavirus relief checks still are weeks away from arriving in our bank accounts or snail mail boxes, but crooks already are trying to trick us out of the money. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says its ScamTracker already has detected crooks impersonating as government officials and calling about the money authorized under the just-enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. New hooks, old scams: COVID-19 is a new bait, but the scam scenarios are out of the standard con artist playbook. You get an email or see an online post about a special COVID-19 government grant. All... Read more →


Millions of taxpayers finally got their tax statements this week and promptly filed their returns. Millions more of us are still in the data gathering stage — Hey, it's not my fault! One of my 1099s still isn't here. — and will file soon. But all of us still are potential tax identity theft targets. Yes, even early filers. Crooks know these taxpayers generally are expecting refunds, so they tailor their deceptive approaches accordingly. Look out for IRS pretenders reaching out to you to say there's a problem with your filing. It can only be fixed, say these scammers who... Read more →


The tax world is atwitter, literally on social media and figuratively for those not addicted to the sociability component of their electronic devices, now that the Internal Revenue Service is already accepting business tax returns and will start taking 2019 tax year 1040 forms from individuals on Jan. 27. Everyone, from taxpayers to income payers to tax professionals are already at work, with most at this point gathering data in preparation for the actual filings. For tax professionals, that includes a written security plan to safeguard all the sensitive tax and financial information they handle for their clients. Tax data... Read more →


Owning a home has long been a symbol of the American dream. For some, however, homeownership turns into a nightmare. Those horrid homeowner dreams became evident in the Great Recession. In the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, artificially high home prices, questionable lending practices and an explosion of subprime mortgages to buyers who under regular lending standards would not have been given a home loan, created a housing bubble. It finally burst in 2007, leaving many homeowners broke as the loans on their properties suddenly were many thousands more than their homes were worth. Many went into foreclosure or walked... Read more →


Updated Friday, Dec. 6, 2019 Source: PhotoMIX Ltd via Pexels Yes, I know Cyber Monday has come and gone. I also realize that a lot of folks finished up their holiday shopping earlier this week. But there always are those of us who put off picking up that perfect present until the last minute. Or, as Dec. 25 nears, we just happen to see something that our spouse, parents, children or best fiend would absolutely love. So, since we seem to be perpetually logged in, we click on it and we're done. Unless our clicking leads to identity theft. Beyond... Read more →


Gift cards are great presents for family and friends. There's no worrying about sizes or misinterpreted wish list hints. Gift cards, however, are not an option to pay your taxes. That fact hasn't stopped con artists. The Internal Revenue Service says tax scams involving the prepaid pieces of plastic presents are on the rise. The tax agency says it has received many reports of taxpayers being asked to pay a fake tax bill through the purchase of gift cards. Breaking down the con: The tax scammers tend to follow the same basic script, tweaking it as needed when marks get... Read more →


Thanksgiving is still a week away. It's another month-plus until Santa puts presents under trees. But holiday shoppers have been hitting the stores and online hard thanks to early Black Friday sales. In fact, more than half of consumers have already started this year's holiday shopping and nearly a quarter of planned purchases have been made, according to the annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Still, there's plenty of shopping and shoppers to do it out there. That means that retailers still are looking for help to handle the remaining seasonal shopping... Read more →


Yes, that could be a real IRS revenue officer knocking on your door if live in Arkansas, Texas or Wisconsin and have ignored prior notices to pay your overdue tax bill. Have you been a bit remiss in meeting your tax duties? If so and you live in Arkansas, Texas or Wisconsin, you've likely or soon could find an Internal Revenue Service agent on your doorstep. The IRS has announced that these in-person visits are part of a larger effort by the agency to, it its words, ensure fairness in the tax system. The special compliance efforts will encompass both... Read more →


These ghostly trick-or-treating dogs are more cuddly than scary. But ghost tax preparers can be terrifying. Don't let one haunt you. There's one thing that scares the Internal Revenue Service and taxpayers alike. Tax scams. One such ploy that popped up during the summer is making rounds again this Halloween season in a new, shall we say, costume. It's the one where the calling crook pretends to be from the Social Security Administration. "In the latest twist on a scam related to Social Security numbers, scammers claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim's SSN. It's yet another... Read more →


How many email and snail mail charity solicitations have you received in the last couple of weeks? In our real and virtual mailboxes, it's already nearing 100. Yes, the end-of-year donation season is shifting into high gear. Unfortunately, that also means that criminals will be trying to take advantage of people's generous tendencies. Such nefarious attempts are why this week the Internal Revenue Service is participating in the second annual International Charity Fraud Awareness Week (ICFAW). ICFAW is led by a coalition of over 40 charities, regulators, law enforcers, representative bodies and other not-for-profit stakeholders. Awareness is key to stopping... Read more →