Holiday Fraud Awareness Reminders

Fraud Alert: this reminder comes at a timely moment as we head into the busy and hopefully joyous holiday season. With all the distractions of the season, it’s easy to forget about the devious schemes some people on this planet use to con others out of their hard earned cash.

Complete strangers commit the most common cases of fraud via the telephone and Internet. However, it’s not uncommon to hear about other crimes committed by trusted employees, financial advisers, tax preparation officials and even family members. You simply must be alert and learn how to recognize when a con is happening.

If you have an accountant, tax preparer or financial advisor, did you do your due diligence and get character references? Too often we gloss over the details and may take the opinion of the person who referred the professional.

Phone Fraud

When it comes to phone fraud, the criminals are pretty slick. But hopefully, with a lot of news coverage, more and more people are getting hip to the familiar tactics. Unfortunately, though, many adults think that frauds only happen to other people. Experts call this the ‘illusion of invulnerability’.

This illusion is very evident in light of a legal case in which scammers tricked U.S. residents out of $300 million by pretending to be Internal Revenue Service agents attempting to collect back taxes. These supposed IRS agents were based in a massive call center in India.

Current Frauds And Scams Throughout The U.S

There are several websites you can visit to research many of the scams that are going on throughout the country. ( I’m posting some that I pulled from the November issue of AARP. Scammers specifically target the elderly, students and immigrants with some of these seemingly ridiculous scams. But, somehow they manage to make people believe them.

  1. The first is the jury duty manager: In this scam, the person says something like, “Hi, I’m calling from the courthouse and you missed jury duty. Pay $400 or go to prison.”
  2. The puppy breeder, goes like this: “As a dog lover you should know we just got a beautiful litter of purebred golden retriever puppies. Just $200 each!”
  3. The utility company: This one is very popular at the moment. The con artist calls and says, “We will be shutting off your power, ie…electricity, gas, heat, in 24 hours if you don’t pay the past-due amount on your bill immediately.”
  4. The government clerk calls, saying, “You have unclaimed property with our state. Simply pay this fee and we will release it to you.”
  5. The ticket seller says, “as an affiliate of a major ticket vendor, we can get you seats for your dream concert for a discount, if you act quickly.
  6. The bank verifier: The person says, “There’s a data problem with your checking account. Please verify this information so we can confirm things and fix the error.” This one is very tricky. Remember banks don’t call to verify your information.
  7. The big-winner announcer says, “I’m from the Canadian lottery and you have $1 million! Pay the import tax and fee and we’ll send you your winnings.” You may not remember that you haven’t been to Canada!
  8. The doctor representative has this to say, “Research shows conclusively that these new capsules will stop your disease in its tracks.
  9. The police or fire department gets their victims with, “We’re raising money for officers or firefighters injured in the line of duty. How much will you be donating today?”
  10. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – this is a big one because most people are terrified of getting in trouble with the IRS. Caller says, “You owe taxes and are at grave risk of large fines or jail time if you do not settle this situation immediately.
  11. The long-distance lover, if you’ve been chatting with someone on line, you need to be extra cautious because your newfound love might call with this message, “In these weeks of chatting, I’ve fallen so in love with you. Send money for a plane ticket and oh, the magic will happen!”
  12. The military rep’s spiel goes something like this, “I’m from the Veterans Administration,” says the caller, “and you are entitled as an ex-soldier to benefits from this program. I just need to know…all of your personal information.

Have a question? Contact Barry Fowler. Your comments are always welcome.

Barry Fowler is licensed to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and is a longstanding member of several tax industry professional organizations including the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), National Association of Tax Preparers (NATP), Texas Society of Enrolled Agents (TSEA), and the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers (ASTPS). With experience in the tax and finance industry spanning over twenty years, Fowler’s expertise includes tax resolution, personal financial planning, tax return preparation, financial statements, and general ledger bookkeeping. He has been instrumental in helping hundreds of people resolve complex tax issues with the IRS.

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