Scams Feed

I've dealt with bill collectors over the years. Fortunately for me, it's been on behalf of a couple of relatives who found themselves in over their heads financially. Fortunately for my family members, after much — way too much — and often contentious back and forth, we were able to come to a satisfactory resolution. That's why I tend to share former Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson's skepticism about the way that private collection agencies, or PCAs in tax-acronymese, interact with folks who owe taxes. But despite my, Olson's and many others' lingering distrust of these operations, private debt collect is... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners have made major strides in recent years in fighting tax-related identity theft. Much of the effort has been in educating taxpayers and businesses about ways to recognize and avoid scams and other tax ID schemes. The IRS also has improved the way it works with taxpayers who do fall victim to identity thieves. Now Uncle Sam is expanding a way that taxpayers can be more proactive in fighting identity theft. The IRS' opt-in Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) now is available for the 2020 tax-filing season to taxpayers in... Read more →


Photo by creditdebitpro Voluntary compliance is the backbone of the U.S. tax system. But when that doesn't work out as Uncle Sam hopes, he knows the Internal Revenue Service has ways to get the money. One of the most drastic ramifications of unpaid tax is the loss of other property. In extreme unpaid tax cases, the federal government places a lien on delinquent taxpayers' other assets. This ensures the Treasury gets something of value to offset the overdue tax bill. Criminals know this process, too. That's why, warns the IRS, we all need to be on alert for a new... Read more →


Law enforcement officers across five U.S. federal agencies successfully concluded a four-month investigation this month with the arrest of 281 people allegedly involved in global email scams. The scams, officially known as Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes, are designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens. Most of the alleged cyber criminals, 167, were arrested in Nigeria. Insert your own fraudulent prince email comments here. Another 74 people in the United States were taken into custody. The remaining arrests were made in France, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.... Read more →


One of my previous jobs was an office manager. I was in charge of reviewing expenditures before they were approved and then making sure they were paid once the services were provided. Every month or so I'd get an invoice for some office supplies. Every month I threw it in the trash. It was from a scam company that tried to sneak the paperwork into my to-pay file. Occasionally, people representing these "suppliers" would call about the allegedly overdue bill. When I told them I had forwarded the bill to our legal department, they quickly hung up. That was 30... Read more →


Yes, I know I've been fixated of late on computer security. First there was the ransomware warning. Then the new Internal Revenue Service impersonation tax identity theft scheme appeared. Part of the reason such topics have captured my fancy recently is that for the last week I've been away from my office a lot. That's meant doing much of my work on other systems. Even though I trust them, I always get a twinge of fear that somehow, someone will hack me. So thanks for bearing with me on my repetitive focus on computer — and tax — security, as... Read more →


Those mask pull-off scenes from Mission: Impossible movies are always fun, but real-life impersonators pretending to be from the IRS could cost you dearly. (Screenshot of movie mask reveal montage on YouTube) We're getting closer to the Oct. 15 filing deadline for those who got an extension back in April to fill out their returns. You can tell not only by the countdown clock ticking away on the ol' blog (shameless plug: it's in the narrow right-hand column), but also because tax scammers are back. The Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners are warning taxpayers and tax professionals... Read more →


Ransomware has evolved over the last three decades from a targeted cyber attack distributed on literal floppy discs to a major electronic security crisis for individuals, companies and governments. This type of malware typically locks out computer users and locks down their systems until the cyber hijackers are paid to return access to the information. In 2017, WannaCry ransomware went global, infecting more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries. Most recently, almost two dozen Texas towns were victims of a coordinated attack. The Lone Star State electronic lockouts follow patterns set by ransomware demands in Florida, Maryland and New York.... Read more →


After the vigils for victims of mass tragedies, efforts to help the victims and survivors appear. Make sure your gifts to such campaigns, especially online crowdfunding ones, go to those who need help and not scammers. (Photo by Catholic Church of England, Mazur/CatholicNewsUK via Flickr CC) Gilroy, California. El Paso, Texas. Dayton, Ohio. In an eight-day span, three separate shootings by lone gunmen in these cities left a total of 35 people dead, 54 injured. Residents in these cities are dealing with unspeakable horror and grief. Most of the rest of us in the United States and across the world... Read more →


"Dead Again" was a fun thriller, but the concept isn't amusing if the IRS is holding your tax refund for the second time in two years because it still thinks you're deceased. Death and taxes are inevitable, but that's not the eventual convergence yet for one woman. Shakira Evans of Philadelphia, however, is having trouble convincing the Internal Revenue Service of that. Worse, it's the second consecutive year that the 22-year-old mother of two has had to fight for her tax refund from the IRS, which still thinks she's dead. Dead again: Evans went through this same thing last year,... Read more →


My mother is almost 85. She's no Betty White, but all things considered she doing darn well. Especially when it comes to cognition and attitude. She listens to an audio book a week, keeps up with the news and her favorite TV game show (Jeopardy) and doesn't take any guff from unsolicited callers trying to sell her stuff. Or worse. Unfortunately, that latter instance is not the case for many in my mom's demographic. A recent Marketplace series examined how the aging brain may become more susceptible to financial scams. Among the findings, data suggest that as we get older,... Read more →


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 →