Hey Compliance Warriors!
We’ve seen time and time again, with many disasters in the world. There will be people that try to help, and there will be people who try to profit. Unfortunately there are plenty of scammers in the world that will try to get your money or your personal information. Today we’ll discuss the types of scams you might see surrounding COVID-19. Read or Listen on…
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Lisa: And today we’re going to be discussing some issues that are affecting not only businesses, but really largely individuals. And these could be things that you want to be aware of maybe even have a little, newsletter or Zoom call or something with your employees and discuss some of these challenges and confusing messages that might be coming their way. The COVID stuff has really caused the bad guys to come out in full force and start the little scammy rip off type, scenarios, even bigger than we all kind of got to know the Nigerian Prince scam. Right so now we’re starting to see some of that homegrown, Nigerian print stuff in bigger numbers than we’ve ever seen.
Mason: Yeah, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, we got some new tax scams. Woo. So there’s kind of 12 points here and we’re going to kind of go through those and kind of discuss them as we go here just to kind of know what you can look out for with these. So, the first one is playing on fear.
Lisa: Yeah, the IRS is reporting that they’re seeing so many, what’s called phishing schemes. It’s where you get those emails that they, try to rile you up and get you afraid about the virus and stimulus payments. And they blast these out to large numbers of people. And they’re working on trying to get personal identity, information, credit cards, social security numbers, whatever they can get from you.
Mason: Yeah And this is one of the oldest tricks in the book, I hate when I get insurance calls, like, are you taking care of your family properly? Well, you might get in a car wreck tomorrow. So, by our insurance, I’m like, no, I’m not buying that, kind of thing, and it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book that a lot of companies use to try to sell their products. And then also with these kind of tax scams as well, get these emails, urgent! look at this now you’re being frauded. And then, it’s like at the same time, that’s what they’re trying to do to you.
Lisa: It’s just getting worse with COVID-19. I mean, people that wouldn’t normally be afraid and when they get a silly email like this, now they’re suddenly afraid, so it’s a whole new audience that they’ve really been able to tap into.
Mason: Yeah and the biggest thing to remember when you get one of these emails, the IRS does not email you, you will never get an email from the IRS. So, if you see something that’s like IRS urgent, delete it.
Lisa: No credit card company. Nobody is going to say, just email us back your social security number.
Mason: Yeah, exactly. So, that’s just one thing to look out for, going on to the next point, give and it hurts.
Lisa: I mean, most people out can’t say we all, but most people like to be charitable when it’s within their power to do so. COVID-19 has really, tapped on the heartstrings of the American public and the public at large in the world. As a matter of fact, and people with means have been sort of guilted almost into, maybe you should give a little more during this time, which is a personal choice, but what we’ve seen is bogus websites using names that resemble legitimate charities. And we’re not going to say them out loud because we don’t want to give them any press. But it is something that if you’re going to give, check out the charity that you’re giving to and make sure it’s real.
Mason: Yeah, that’s the biggest thing is like you have a big open heart and that’s very much appreciated, but you need to understand where your money’s going and not just give blindly, and one thing to remember legit legal charities, won’t hesitate to give their federal employee identification number. So that’s something you can always ask for way if you’re giving to a charity.
Lisa: Yes, And then when you get that number, you can go to irs.gov and you can look that charity up and make sure that you’ve got the right, group of people.
Mason: So, moving on to phone scams, a familiar voice.
Lisa: This is called vishing or voice phishing, which is kind of a new word now we’re having to deal with, but it’s where they call you up and they say, if you don’t do this, if you don’t pay this money, then we’re going to arrest you or deport you, which is a really big one right now, we’re going to revoke a license that you have. And so, you always hear of these, coming around sometimes they’re like robo calls. And so, it’s not unusual to see this kind of activity, but again, it’s heightened during this time of COVID we’ve been given these passes. And so like, we have had a time period where we didn’t have to file our taxes until July 15th. And so we’re given some grace periods on maybe paying some credit cards and things like that, but then the scammers take advantage of this and they call you up and they say, well, that didn’t include you and we’re going to deport you. Or that didn’t include you because of this reason. And we’re going to do this to you. And we don’t have debtor’s prison anymore. Like all of that is gone. The IRS is not going to demand immediate payment or threatened to come and get you. And so just don’t be taken in by that stuff.
Mason: I think the most important thing to bring out here is it goes either way, like I got a call the other day, somebody was trying to scam me. I answered the phone, Hey, this is Mason. And they’re like, hey man, what’s going on? like trying to be familiar with you. And then I’m like, who is this? He was like, Oh, you don’t remember this and that? They go into this depth conversation when you get something like that, it’s just weird. And you just hang up or the other side of it where they’re calling you threatening you, like you got to do this now or else like we kind of talked about before and some of it will be robo calls. You get these, this is an important message from blah blah blah delete, delete, delete. If it’s a number from overseas, then that’s right out there and it’s cool because a lot of the phones these days will catch those calls now. And it’ll say likely a scam right on your iPhone or your Android device. So that’s pretty cool. So, the next one is antisocial.
Lisa: So social media, has been a great way to stay in touch during this time, but it’s also a great way to get scammed. And so social media scams have led to tax-related issues, people stealing your identity, asking for your social. We just want to remember that a lot of times it looks like the person that’s asking things of you is your actual friend on social media, but our accounts are being hijacked all the time. People are using our pictures and making it look like I’m messaging you when I’m really not. So, we gotta really watch out for that.
Mason: That’s right. So then moving on to the next one, a negative impact.
Lisa: The IRS has really worked against a refund, fraud and theft and things like that, but it still is going on. And so, criminals are turning their attention to stealing what’s known as economic impact payments. And the IRS has recently issued warnings that nursing homes and other care facilities, that are accepting these payments that come in are going to be at risk. So, we want to make sure that, payments don’t count as a resource for determining eligibility for Medicaid and other federal programs. And if you’re getting, issues like this with your family members, or you personally, you want to reach out to the proper authorities.
Mason: So, the next one would be a new avenue for scammers.
Lisa: We always know that for years, whether it’s a sleazy TV preacher or whoever it might be, the senior citizens have been the targets. They, no matter how small that social security check is, they’re not too proud to take it. Older Americans sometimes don’t know where to turn. Maybe they don’t have family that’s readily available to help them navigate some questions. And then they trust this well-meaning sweet voiced person on the phone or through whatever, mode they’re trying to be contacted. And of course, they are taken for a ride many times. Look out for your seniors, look out for your parents and your grandparents, and make sure they’re doing okay through this.
Mason: Phishing scams, are linked to Coronavirus or that special threat. So, language barriers, this one’s kind of an interesting one cause, my wife, her mother is, limited English. They’re Korean and she’s kind of lived all over the world, but never really learned English. And she’ll get these things sometimes. My father in law, he’s always like, don’t answer the phone, don’t do this. And cause she’s getting caught up in these things and not getting frauded to that point or anything like that, but she’ll get these and take them seriously. The IRS impersonators, they target people. They think that are going to be limited with English and then they tell them all this jargon that they can’t understand it, but makes it feel urgent. And so that’s one things that people are using, language barriers to get their way.
Lisa: That’s super important. We see a lot of anti-immigrant feelings and so there’s just a lot going on with our immigrant population and like your mother-in-law she’s an American citizen, but still she can easily misunderstand or be convinced of something. So, we definitely want to look out for those things too.
Mason: The next one is boo!
Lisa: So dishonest tax preparers. Oh, my goodness. We see this every tax season, somebody going to be trying to take somebody for a ride, but with COVID-19, there are going to be situations where we have dishonest tax preparers. We even have tax pros that have been impacted by COVID and their offices have been closed or partially closed. So, we want to make sure that we don’t get into a situation as a taxpayer where we have to go find a new person to help us. And we’re just turning to whoever’s on the internet because it can really, really be a bad deal. And then especially dangerous It mentions here are ghost preparers who don’t sign the returns, but they charge you all this money.
Mason: Yeah, that’s right. It’s one of those things you really got to look out for, I say a lot of times go to someone who’s local, who you can actually see in person to help you tax prepare. You know, if you need that kind of help, working with somebody over the internet can be, it can work, but at the same time it can be dangerous.
Lisa: Yeah And currently more than any, shopping locally just helps our community stay afloat. So, I really feel like that’s super important.
Mason: So, next point is accept no compromise.
Lisa: I get these in the mail, these tax debt resolution companies that say, Oh, we’re just going to settle your tax debt for you. And there have been times when there are legit ones out there and they do help people who are in trouble. But what I’ve been getting in the mail recently is I’ll get this letter saying you owe this credit card company and this credit card company and this credit card company. And they’re right. Like I have a balance on those cards, but I’m not delinquent and it’s not a big deal. Like I’m handling my business. Right. But they’re coming at me. Like these companies have hired them to pursue me. And so, this is where older folks too, or maybe young naive folks can really get caught up in some of these things. What is this It looks like a threatening letter. Oh no, they’re going to shut down my life. Because I owe $1,500 to Citibank. No, it doesn’t work that way. And so when I open those up and I see what they’re doing, then in little bitty, tiny print, there will be something about, this is an advertisement or something, there’ll be something, but that’s not obvious most of the time. And so just watch out for that because these people are just trying to take you for a ride.
Mason: The next one is card tricks talking about gift cards.
Lisa: They steal your personal data; they file bogus returns and now they get your refund deposited onto their bank account. And once the direct deposit hits that account, the fraudster calls the taxpayer posing as the IRS employee. And then the taxpayer’s told there’s been a bank error. It’s not in their favor. The IRS wants their money back. And then they’ve got to go out and buy these gift cards and do all this stuff to pay this money back. And anyway, just don’t fall for that. If the IRS deposits money into your account, they need to write you a letter on IRS letterhead and send it certified mail before you give any of that money back.
Mason: Yeah. 100%. And, with the stimulus checks as well, I got mine direct deposited. And then after that, you get a letter saying this is all verified and everything’s good. So, the IRS does that as well. They’ll send you a paper trail of, we deposited this in your account and you’re here and everything’s good. So, you’ll get these scammers posing to try to get you, to give them your tax return. The next one is payroll payoffs.
Lisa: This is one where, tax professionals, employers, taxpayers, all of us need to be on guard against this of a scheme That’s designed to steal W2 information specifically. And so, they’re going to be targeting small businesses many times to get this information. And it’s true when the businesses are closing, and the employees are working from home. This article I read says in one scam, a compromised email account was often used to send a request to purchase gift cards. Here’s the gift card theme again, in various denominations. And then in another, the fraudster may have access to the victim’s email account, to impersonate the victim, to have the organization change the direct deposit information or something like that. So, if your employee emails, you and says, Hey, here’s my new bank information. Don’t just accept the email. You need to hear that you need to get them to sign something official. And chances are, obviously if this is a fraud thing that’s happening, you’re going to call that employee up and want to do a verbal, confirmation. This was your email. And they may say, no, I never sent you that email. And this is happening more and more. We’ve really got to watch out for this.
Mason: Yeah. It starts a whole chain of events that just runs you into the ground.
Lisa: And as a business, I mean, you’re responsible for your employees’ information, so you really must watch out for that.
Mason: You can’t be giving that stuff away. The last and final point is Hiya ransom!
Lisa: So, ransomware if you’ve never heard of this before, it’s basically used to infect your computer, your network or whatever, and it’s a big deal. Basically, it shuts down your system, or won’t let you access certain vital areas until you pay a certain amount of money. And you don’t even know what’s happening until you try to access that data. So, it’s very slick. There might be a pop-up window that says contact here and, do this and do that. And then they’re going to try to get money. And anyway, fake COVID charities have been involved lots of craziness on this kind of ransomware. So, before you open any attachment on an email or you allow a popup or something, you need to be super, super careful because you might be installing this stuff on your computer.
Mason: Yeah And it’s a good idea to look, cause like you said, you’ll get these emails with these attachments that look somewhat official, but it’s always good to check the email address. Where is that coming from Cause usually a ransomware or a scammer, it’ll be this big, long drawn out email address, but it has like Apple dot this, all this stuff.whatever.com from whoever, wherever it’s coming from. So, if it looks fishy, delete it and move on. And if it really is something that you deleted, then it’ll come back around in a paper trail or something they’ll find you.
Lisa: Yeah. Right. It’s better not to just fall into it and just fall prey to it immediately.
Mason: Billions of emails go out a day and probably, I would say 70% of them are scams or whatever it’s going to be. So just be on the watch and we’ve had members send us stuff. That’s like, is this legit we’re like, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Lisa: Oh yeah. With garnishments, that’s another big one for your payroll department. So just watch out for everything. Cause it’s at an all-time high, really at the moment.
Mason: And look out for these companies that like I’m securing your information. Cause there’s the big ones like LifeLock, that’s legit, things like credit karma, that are really secure, to secure your information and help you out and all that kind of stuff. But there’s also people who pose is LifeLock that are actually stealing your stuff. So that’s another if you’re looking for, security for your, private information, make sure you vet out whoever you’re looking at really good. Well that was a pretty decent longer form one, but at the same time, this stuff’s important because all these people are coming out of the woodwork for, COVID-19, people are afraid right now and all that kind of stuff. So, they’re preying on that kind of thing. So just something to look out for.
Lisa: All right. Well, I guess that’s a wrap for today then. So, until next time I’m Lisa Smith Be Audit Secure.