First off, let me just say it’s good to be back on these pages after a couple years away. I’ve written for this paper for a lot of years and one subject that has been a frequent topic over the years is the issue of FRAUD. Fraud, from long years of fighting a variety of scams, is like a whack-a-mole game. You whack one down and two more crop up to replace it. Local PD’s and our county Sheriff and DA labor mightily to keep us safe from these predators but it’s not easy to stay ahead of some of these folks. Some are relatively sophisticated and not easily detectable. Until you are stung. There are others who are mainly out there to provide some comic relief. Unless you are stung.
So what set me off this time? I received a note from my CPA firm recently, advising me of a scam going around right now. The message purports to be from the IRS. It’s got a nice IRS logo in blue, a couple of handy dandy, official looking, reference numbers to claim your booty. With a potential payout from a so-called ‘Third Round of Economic so forth and so on’. Lucky me stands to get $976.00 if I just click the button that says Claim My Refund’ and answer a few simple questions.
It took me exactly 2 sentences to ferret out the fraud. It began: “Dear Tax Payer.” (Already I’m suspicious. Dear?) “We hope this message finds you well”. Definitely NOT the IRS with an attitude like that. Turns out, a recent article on nerdwallet has identified several current scams whereby criminals impersonate IRS agents or other government employees, calling, or emailing, the mark (that’s you) for a few shekels to a bundle – depending on your gullibility.
In addition to the one outlined above, here’s a few more.
- You’ve heard the ads touting the employee retention tax credit? Oh, it’s a real thing all right, and your company deserves every penny you’re due. But please vet the service first. There’s some ‘real deals’ but there’s a lot some shady deals as well that could cost you a bundle.
- You should set up an IRS account so you can manage your payment plan or schedule your refund. Again, a good idea and you could sure do it pretty easily yourself at IRS.gov. But be careful of offers to ‘help you sign up’ for an account. Once your sensitive information is compromised, you’re in a world of hurt.
How about –
- ‘you owe the federal student tax on the unpaid balance of your student loan’, or
- ‘we recalculated your tax refund so you need to fill our this form to claim it’, or
- we can get you a larger refund by creating your own W-2’, or
- ‘we’re from the FDIC, Social Security, Bureau of Tax Enforcement, and we’re here to help’,
- ‘I’m a Nigerian Prince with no other living relatives but you.’ Wait, that’s a different deal.
Well, you get it. Hopefully before they got it from you.
Here’s are a few things to watch out for:
- The IRS calls you, emails you, texts you, leaves you a prerecorded message, or contacts you through a social media account. NO they won’t.
- You can make payments with your credit or debit card, OR you can pay with gift cards. NO you can’t.
- Wire $350 to the Prince and send along your bank routing and account info for speedy deposit of your millions. No you didn’t.
What you should do is report any experience directly and immediately to the IRS at IRS.GOV and search FRAUD. Closer to home I’ve had great success over the years working with our Riverside County District Attorney’s office. Just head over to RIVCODA.ORG and search fraud. There you’ll find more information than you are comfortable with regarding local fraud. The DA has set up units for Welfare Fraud, Consumer Fraud, Real Estate Fraud, Insurance Fraud, Worker’s Comp Fraud, and more. Sadly, they are needed in our community.
By the way, you’ll notice a ‘new’ writer has also joined the team, one whom I am honored to share the same ink. John Hunneman has been a print and personality figure in this Valley for decades and bringing him back to this media is a coup. You’ll see other new writers cropping up in these pages going forward, with timely information on business, trends, economics and more. Stay tuned.
About Gene Wunderlich: Prior to his retirement in 2021, Wunderlich served on a number of local non-profits and boards. He spent the past decade as a legislative advocate for the housing and real estate industries as well as a coalition of local Chambers of Commerce advocating on behalf of small and local businesses.