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Watch your financial back: Protect yourself from these 5 common scams

Posted: 10:23 a.m. Tuesday, March 07, 2017


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Fraud, identity theft focus of National Consumer Protection Week.

It’s National Consumer Protection Week, and the Federal Trade Commission along with more than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and advocacy organizations are focused on informing Americans of their consumer rights and how to protect themselves from becoming victims of fraud and identity theft. 

Here are five scams authorities warn to be on the lookout for:

Tax scams continue to lead the list of scams, according to the Better Business Bureau. Scammers take advantage of tax season, with some posing as IRS agents to instill fear in their victims, demanding money or threatening jail time. Others pose as reputable tax preparers who may guarantee big refunds before completing returns, skim portions of your refund for themselves or overcharge for services. The IRS put together a “Dirty Dozen” tax scams you can fall into. 

» RELATED: ‘Dirty Dozen’ tax scams for 2017: IRS warns to keep guard up 

The “Can you hear me?” scam has long been used by fraudsters to trick businesses into purchasing office supplies and directory ads they did not order. Now consumers are in the cross hairs. When the consumer gives the typical “yes” response, the scammer makes a recording and later edits it to make it sound like the person has authorized a major purchase. Consumers have told the BBB that calls are often about vacation packages, cruises and warranties. 

» RELATED: ‘Can you hear me now?’ scam targeting local people 

Data breaches continue to be worrisome for consumers, experts say. In January, Arby’s discovered a breach impacting about 1,000 restaurants that could affect 350,000 credit card users. The Atlanta-based company faces several class-action lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Atlanta over the reported breach that allegedly put customers’ financial security at risk. The fast food chain acknowledged a breach by hackers using “malware” from Oct. 25 to Jan. 19, according to the suits. 

» RELATED: ‘Massive’ Arby’s data breach put customers at risk, lawsuits allege 

» RELATED: Do you eat at Arby’s? Restaurant looking into possible data breach 

“Storm-chaser” home repair scams are another threat to consumers, particularly as spring brings more violent weather, warns Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. 

“If you have downed trees, a damaged roof, or other storm damage, be wary of people who unexpectedly show up at your door offering services,” DeWine said. “Some con artists travel to storm-damaged areas to rip off homeowners. They promise to do the work immediately and ask for payment up front, but they leave without finishing the job. We encourage people to be careful and to research contractors before making payments.” 

» RELATED: New way to protect yourself from scams 

Phishing attacks – fake emails or websites set up to steal personal information – continue to reach all-time highs, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), an international coalition of industry, government and law enforcement that keeps tabs on cybercrime. 

The election-year WikiLeaks dump of Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s emails proved how easy the public and even high-ranking officials fall victim to the schemes. Podesta was hacked the same way many Americans fall prey: by clicking on a phony email he thought was legitimate. 

» RELATED: Experts: Even sophisticated users can fall prey to ‘phishing

IRS warning of new phishing scam to get tax information

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) —

The IRS has issued a warning about a phishing scam that is targeting businesses and organizations looking to get your W-2s.

Tax season can be a busy time for employers as companies work to distribute W-2 forms to employees. But now cyber criminals are using sophisticated techniques to con HR departments across the country into giving up sensitive material found in W-2s.

“An executive will email your HR payroll, and it’ll look like it came from the executive and what is asking for employee information W-2s all your employees maybe even socials,” said Kayleena Speakman with the Better Business Bureau.

Speakman says this is actually an old scam just re-invented.

“The old scam was just corporations,” she said. “The new twist is now school districts, tribal organizations even non-profits.”

The head of the IRS is not taking this scam lightly — saying in part:

“This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in a large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns.”

“It’s a very dangerous scam because what’s going to happen if the payroll person actually falls for it and gives these scammers all the information,” Speakman said.

Experts say the best way employers can fight these fraudsters is by looking for red flags – like misspellings and poor grammar in the email.

“Tax season was our number one scam reported in 2016, and I would not be surprised if it wasn’t number one in 2017,” Speakman said.

This particular scam has not be reported in Central California but experts say it is on the rise across the country.

(Copyright ©2017 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

Avoiding Tax Disaster — Beware Of These 4 Common Tax Scams

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The “Dirty Dozen” list of Tax Scams for 2017 has been released by the Internal Revenue Service. Inside this list resides some all too common and devastating tax horrors of which to be aware and vigilant. The top 4 most common tax scams are: phishing, phone scams, identity theft and return preparer fraud. Let’s take them one at a time to make sure you have a seamless tax season.

Phishing

Phishing is a term used to describe a scam that uses fake email addresses and websites specifically designed to steal personal information. We all know emails from the IRS look scary and, worst of all, REAL. Know the facts: The IRS will never send an email teasing big refunds, tax bills or seeking personal information. If you receive an email like this, while you might be tempted to open it, forward it immediately to phishing@irs.gov to help the government track down these rats. Then delete it immediately and get it out of your email system without opening it.

Phone Scams

Phone scams are phone calls with scammers posing as IRS agents threatening taxpayers with arrest, deportation, and license revocation unless a large sum of “tax” money is paid immediately – over the phone, right then and there. These crooks also use Robo-calls that leave messages instructing you to call back a phone number – and upon doing so, you’ll arrive in the same place; being threatened into paying a fake bill to criminals. Remember, if you do not have a bill in your hand from the IRS with a stated amount due for taxes, you can rely on the fact that the call is a phone scam. Threats regarding arrest or law enforcement action is another sign that the caller is not with the IRS, regardless of the ID number they provide you with or information they feed back to you (which is all fake). Know the facts: The IRS will never ask for a credit card over the phone. If you are on the receiving end of this scam, look up www.FTC.gov and go to the FTC Complaint Assistant link or call 800-366-4484.

Identity Theft

Identity theft has been front and center in the news for years. Yet consumers still frequently fall prey to scammers who are working diligently to get a hold of your personal information. These scoundrels use your name and social security numbers to file false returns to obtain refunds. While the government is working to prevent this, it continues to be a significant problem. There are things you can do to prevent this from happening to you. For example, never put personal information on a website that is not secure, use security software, firewalls and anti-virus protections. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records, and use strong passwords. Make sure you do not click on unknown links or sites that might contain phishing malware.

Return Preparer Fraud

Return preparer fraud. Yes, they exist to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers. Choose your preparer carefully by following the following steps:

  1. Ask if the prepare has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)
  2. Inquire whether the preparer is a Certified Public Accountant, an Enrolled Agent or Attorney
  3. Check the preparer’s bona fides, use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on the IRS website
  4. Check the preparer’s history through the Better Business Bureau for disciplinary action through the appropriate boards (State Board of Accountancy, State Bar Association or through IRS.gov, “Verify Enrolled Agent Status”)
  5. Ask about fees for preparation. If their compensation is tied to your refund—run like your head is on fire!
  6. Ask for your returns to be E-filed.
  7. Never sign a blank return and, for goodness’ sake, review your return before signing, and ask any and all questions. If the preparer is less than enthused about answering, you might want to find another professional.

It is your job to be aware, vigilant and an active participant in your own security and safety. Tax time can be anxiety-ridden and stressful. Don’t let your lack of knowledge or fear lead you into even more danger.