Scams Feed

It's official. House Democrats have formally requested copies of the last six years of Donald J. Trump's personal and business federal tax returns. Trump has steadfastly refused to make public his taxes, breaking a modern-day tradition set by presidential candidates — and in-office presidents (and vice presidents) — of letting the public have a glimpse of White House 1040s. The main reason Trump has given for keeping his taxes private is that his personal and business filings are under audit. Tax experts throughout the media agree that no sane person would give their tax returns during an audit. After the... Read more →


Unfortunately for taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service, there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to tax scams. Fortunately for taxpayers and the IRS, the tax agency and its Security Summit partners are still on top of the most common scams that continue to pop up in some form year-round. These 12 schemes, which have been dubbed the Dirty Dozen tax scams, get added attention, of course, during the main tax filing season. During these hectic days from Jan. 1 — yes, some folks are ready to file that soon — through April 15, millions of us are... Read more →


If a phone call from someone claiming to be with an official tax office doesn't sound quite right, it's because it's probably a scam call. (Photo by rocketace via Flickr) I'm not a paranoid person. And the only conspiracy theories I've ever paid attention to were the for-entertainment-purposes-only ones promoted on television's The X-Files. But I've got wonder if the tax crooks who are working nonstop to steal our identities and tax refunds also are colluding to troll the Internal Revenue Service. Case in point, the latest tax scam alert from the IRS. Today the tax agency issued a warning... Read more →


I attend fitness classes — OK, mostly yoga and I tend to head into Savasana a bit sooner than most of my fellow yogis — several times a week at my neighborhood club. Most of the members have been there for year and it's got a community feel. Still, I am always amazed at how much personal information folks share about themselves with people they really don't know very well. Many folks, in fact, share stuff albeit unintentionally with total strangers as a recent piece by Kate Klonick for the New York Times alarmingly illustrates. Klonick, who teaches information privacy... Read more →


The 2019 tax filing season appears, so far, to be thankfully free of tax scams. Maybe it's because things are going a bit more slowly, either due to the many tax law changes, the lengthy government shutdown that preceded it or a combination of both. I hate to be a buzzkill, but this early filing season respite is probably the best we can hope for. Tax realists know that crooks are still out there, planning and/or implanting their schemes to steal taxpayer identities and file fake returns to get fraudulent refunds. Scams increase as tax deadline nears: That concern is... Read more →


Most tax preparers are honest and work to help their clients. Some, however, use shady methods to make money off unsuspecting filers. Don't be one of them! More of us every tax-filing season are turning to tax professions. The 2019 filing season in particular has underscored the value that tax professionals add. This is the first year taxpayers have had to deal with the real-life effects of the many Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) change. A knowledgeable tax preparer can help you navigate this new maze. But you need to be careful in picking the person to be your... Read more →


Dr. Seuss' The Grinch movie image courtesy Illumination Entertainment Grinches aren't always green. Sometimes we don't even know what they look like. That's the case when they set their sights on stealing not only Christmas, but your identity by sending fake emails. This holiday season, ID thieves have stepped up their phishing efforts. And some of those fake emails are going to tax professionals as part of payroll direct deposit and wire transfer scams. Tax pros targeted, too: Phishing scams tend to be small-d democratic. The business email compromise and/or spoofing tactics generally target all types of industry and employers.... Read more →


Welcome to a new week, another seven days for cyber criminals to try to steal your personal, financial and tax information. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners in state tax departments and the tax world's private sector spent five days alerting us to potential tax identity theft schemes and ways to ensure we don't fall victim. Unfortunately, we need to be aware of the dangers of online tax and financial crime every single day of the year, not just for one designated week. That's why today I'm recapping the National Tax Security Awareness Week warnings.... Read more →


Computer hacking ID theft image by Don Hankins via Flickr The billions of holiday shoppers who head for their electronic devices instead of malls are well aware of the precautions they need to take as they pick perfect gifts from websites. This year, everyone also needs to be on alert for tax crooks who've joined this annual online crime wave. Specifically, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners warn that they've recently seen a surge of fraudulent emails where the sender impersonates the IRS and uses tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware.... Read more →


Canadian taxpayers have been victims of a telephone tax scam in which identity thieves purport to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. Tax and law enforcement authorities hope recent arrests at Indian call centers will at least slow the scam. (Screenshot from the joint The National/CBC Marketplace report. Click image to watch full video.) Despite some recent diplomatic and trade strains in the United States' relationship with Canada, the two countries share a lot of things, including tax scams. The most pervasive tax scam in America is telephone calls made by crooks pretending to be Internal Revenue Service agents. The... Read more →


Winston Shrout giving a financial seminar via YouTube before his recent tax legal troubles. Winston Shrout believes he's an alien with Biblical origins who was sent to Earth to destroy a particular group of Catholics. Shrout's also a convicted tax evader. Last week, a Portland judge determined that despite Shrout's out-there delusions, the 70-year-old is competent to face sentencing on guilty verdicts on 13 counts of issuing fake financial documents to banks and six counts of willful failure to file tax returns. During his 2017 trial, prosecutors introduced evidence showing that between 2009 and 2014, Shrout earned $562,224 from a... Read more →


Is there anyone anywhere who hasn't been a potential identity theft victim? Probably not. Even if the crooks haven't stolen your identity — yet — there's still the possibility if some holder of any of your personal information has been hacked. And that happens every day. The biggies get the most attention, like last year when cyber criminals got hold of Equifax credit bureau data, putting almost 146 million identities at risk. And no one is safe. Just last week, the federal government again fell victim to hackers. The State Department, like the Office of Personnel Management and Internal Revenue... Read more →


Classes, from Kindergarten to high school to college, are or about to be in session across much of the United States. That means parents can breathe a sigh of relief now that schools and teachers will once again add structure to their children's lives. But the beginning of the school year also prompts a new parental concern: their youngsters' privacy. No age limit for ID theft: Identity thieves don't set age limits on the people whose lives they try to steal. When a young person's identity is stolen, it sometimes takes longer to discover since most kids aren't involved in... Read more →


Taxpayer security remains a major concern across the United States. The Internal Revenue Service continues to use carrots — such as sharing security tips from tax pros who've been victimized — and sticks — specific data retention rules that practitioners must follow — to help protect tax pros and their clients. But the IRS is not alone in taking steps to protect taxpayer data. All states now taxpayer security breach notifications laws. And Virginia recently expanded its requirements, now mandating that tax professionals report any taxpayer data breach within a “reasonable amount of time." Enhancement of existing law: This new... Read more →


If you're superstitious or suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, today is not a good day. In case you haven't checked your calendar, it's Friday the 13th. Even scarier is the reality that any day can be unlucky if you happen to fall for a tax scam. It's true that most tax crooks use scams to steal your identity and then file fake returns to get fraudulent refunds in your name. It's also true, though, that these scammers work year-round. That's why Friday the 13th is a good day to look at 13 scary tax scams that have appeared so far this year.... Read more →


They're baaaack! Actually, they never left. They, of course, are tax scammers, who the Internal Revenue Service says have tweaked an old scheme using a form used by international taxpayers and non-resident aliens in their latest effort to steal taxpayer identities and cash. As is the case in many tax scams, the form used in this latest identity theft iteration, the W-8BEN, is real. That's an excerpt of the real IRS document, which is titled Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, below. You can click on it to see the full form at IRS.gov.... Read more →


High tax season ended on April 18. High tax scam season never ends. The Internal Revenue Service today warned of a twist on an old phone scam. Criminals now are using telephone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) to trick taxpayers into paying non-existent tax bills. It's not the first time this has happened. Back in 2015, the IRS warned of a telephone tax scam that employed spoofing, which is, in the criminal vernacular, the faking of a phone number that shows up on Caller ID. Tax identity thieves also have used smishing, the text messaging cousin of... Read more →


When we pay a tax pro for help, we trust that person. Sometimes we shouldn't. Most of use tax professionals to help get through tax season. Thankfully, most paid tax preparers are honest. They want to help their clients meet their tax responsibilities by legally paying the least amount of tax possible under the Internal Revenue Code. But most is not all. Some tax preparers run fly-by-night operations where they simply look to make a quick buck off of honest individuals seeking tax assistance. These pros, and I use the description advisedly, often get paid based on a percentage of... Read more →


There are so many tax scams out there that it takes more than one post to cover them. Three posts, to be precise. This is Part 3 of the Internal Revenue Service's 2018 list of the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. Your promised tax savings can be quickly washed away if you put your money into an abusive offshore tax shelter. This is it, a look at the final group of scams that crooks are using again this tax year to try to take our money. The final four schemes in this post, numbers 9 through 12, are like those in... Read more →


There are so many tax scams out there that it takes more than one post. Three, to be precise. This is Part 2 of the Internal Revenue Service's 2018 list of the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. The four schemes in this post, numbers 5 through 8, are like those in the initial 2018 Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2018. They also are repeat (dis)honorees. That's because once crooks find something that works, they keep using it. And sadly, there are enough new victims out there every year to fall for it. Unless potential targets are warned. To do that and... Read more →