Randy J. Elder, CPA, P.C.

Be on the scams alert always, but especially this time of year

As someone who works with other people’s sensitive financial information, I am keenly aware and super diligent about helping my clients make sure they avoid scams and identity theft. Although technology continues to advance to help keep our personal information safe and secure, it seems the scammers, thieves and all around bad guys also continue to up their game, finding new and creative ways to trick or hack their way into gaining sensitive personal information that can be used for malicious intent.

While it is important that we are always alert and vigilant about keeping our sensitive personal and business information safe and secure, it is of particular importance this time of year. The scammers seem particularly fond of posing as the IRS and attempting to lure victims with urgent messages about extremely important transactions that must be attended to. They have become very adept at creating emails that look official, whether from the IRS, your bank or Credit Card Company.

The best defense against these unscrupulous individuals is to DELETE any email that looks at all suspicious and that you are not expecting. If you do open the email – the next defense is DO NOT CLICK!. If it sounds like the email is from your bank or Credit Card Company and it asks you to click or provide personal information, give them a call. If you receive an email that looks like it is from the IRS or Arizona Department of Revenue, and you suspect it is a fake but are afraid to ignore it, please contact me. We can investigate on your behalf. Remember, the IRS and financial institutions NEVER request personal information via email.

Even if you may be alert and not likely to fall victim to these scams, it is also a good idea to make sure family members know how to protect their information as well. We are all aware scammers and hackers love to prey on the most vulnerable, and this often includes the elderly, immigrants and other disadvantaged groups.

There seem to be as many variations of scams as there are stars in the sky so we can’t cover them all here. A few of the more common ones to be on the lookout for are listed below.

For more on Tax-specific scams, the IRS recently published the 2014 “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams” which details the most current scams. The IRS also has a special section on IRS.gov dedicated to identity theft issues, considered as one of the most serious breaches of security. The section includes both tips on how to prevent identity theft as well as how to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit in the unfortunate event that you have fallen, a victim.

Scams that made the Dirty Dozen list

Don’t be a victim. Please report any suspicious emails or phone calls to the appropriate institution. If you believe your tax ID has been compromised or you have questions about IRS or Arizona Department of Revenue communications, please contact me.