By Bill Kahn, Series Contributor -Scams, Frauds and Cons

Fraudulent use of government names and logos are attempts to gain access to your financial information, in order to steal your identity and assets using regular mail, telephone, fax or e-mail. They might use important sounding names like “Corporate Compliance Filings,” “Annual Filing Division,” “Compliance Annual Minutes Board,”“Business Filing Division,”“Federal Clearing House,” “Department of Business Minutes,” “Board of Business Center,” “Department of Business Compliance,” etc., or they come in official looking envelopes.

Government documents or notices never come by email. Tax refund emails can look legitimate; some have IRS logo images and signature images, including the words ‘Copyright, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A. This also includes email notifying the recipient that their tax return will be audited. If you respond or just click a link, it’s enough to become a victim of ID theft and you’re hooked.

Other traps used on the envelope include the words “Office Use Only,” may be prominently displayed on the top. This is a sneaky attempt to mimic the words “Official Use Only.” Even when disclaimers are attached, they are sometimes printed in small gray letters, hidden among a sea of legal jargon, or printed on parts of the letter that is likely to be discarded. They might say such things as “This is not an invoice.”However they can still be deceptive if prepared in a format similar to a State document such as an annual report. You will also find that the letter language doesn’t feel right.It might be vague and stress a deadline.It preys on a fear that one is delinquent on a government related fee.

If you are a business owner you might receive a notice offering to update your company information, file your corporate minutes, renew your business registration, or help with other record-keeping requirements; for taxpayers the scammer tempts you with a fake tax refund or scares you with a delinquency notice; property owners might get a letter telling them you’re eligible for lower property taxes, if you submitted to an official reassessment of your property’s value and request information; licensed professionals such as realtors, cosmetologists, brokers can get a bill for renewing their license, along with a stern warning that failure to pay will result in revocation of their license.

Individuals probably get the most scam correspondence: tax relief companies that claim to reduce or even eliminate your tax debts; schemes to avoid paying U.S. taxes by illegally hiding income offshore; eligible to receive a rebate for filing your taxes early; encouraged to shift appreciated assets into Roth IRAs at less than fair market value; suggest making unreasonable claims to avoid paying the taxes you owe; email from U.S. Department of the Treasury notifying them that they will receive millions of dollars in recovered funds, lottery winnings or cash consignment if they provide certain personal information; mentions a tax refund or offering to pay the recipient to participate in an IRS survey and asks for detailed personal/financial information; IRS employee calls about your receiving economic stimulus or because they sent a check that has not been cashed; uses the Treasury Department’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) as a hook to lure individuals into disclosing their personal information.

There are some nasty people out there, so stay vigilant!

Bill Kahn

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