IR-2016-119, Sept. 2, 2016
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today warned tax professionals of a new wave of attacks that allow identity thieves to file fraudulent tax returns by remotely taking over practitioners’ computers.
As part of the Security Summit effort, the IRS urged tax professionals to review their tax preparation software settings and immediately enact all security measures, especially those settings that require usernames and passwords to access the products. The IRS is aware of approximately two dozen cases where tax professionals have been victimized in recent days.
The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry – working as partners in the Security Summit – recently launched the Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself campaign to increase awareness that criminals increasingly are targeting tax professionals and the taxpayer data they possess.
"This latest incident reinforces the need for all tax professionals to review their computer settings as soon as possible," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "Identity thieves continue to evolve and look for new areas to exploit, especially as our fraud filters become more effective. The prompt identification of these attacks is another example of the great benefits that result from the close working relationship the IRS now has with the tax industry and the states through the Security Summit initiative. Information is flowing more rapidly between our groups as we continue our efforts to protect taxpayers."
These attacks come as the Oct. 17 deadline approaches for extension filers. The IRS first warned of a similar remote take-over attack in the spring, just ahead of the April 15 deadline, another peak period for tax professionals.
Thieves are able to access tax professionals’ computers and use remote technology to take control, accessing client data and completing and e-filing tax returns but directing refunds to criminals’ own accounts.
Victims in the tax community learned of these thefts while reconciling e-file acknowledgements.
In addition to activating security measures for tax software products, IRS urges all tax preparers to take the following steps:
- Run a security “deep scan” to search for viruses and malware;
- Strengthen passwords for both computer access and software access; make sure your password is a minimum of eight digits (more is better) with a mix of numbers, letters and special characters and change them often;
- Be alert for phishing scams: do not click on links or open attachments from unknown senders;
- Educate all staff members about the dangers of phishing scams in the form of emails, texts and calls;
- Review any software that your employees use to remotely access your network and/or your IT support vendor uses to remotely troubleshoot technical problems and support your systems. Remote access software is a potential target for bad actors to gain entry and take control of a machine.
In addition, the IRS recently issued instructions to tax professionals on how to monitor their PTIN activity.
Tax professionals should review Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, a Guide for Your Business, which provides a checklist to help safeguard taxpayer information and enhance office security. Also, practitioners should review Data Breach Information for Tax Professionals for information on what action they should take if they do become victims.
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers against telephone scammers targeting students and parents during the back-to-school season and demanding payments for non-existent taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.”
People should be on the lookout for IRS impersonators calling students and demanding that they wire money immediately to pay a fake “federal student tax.” If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested. As schools around the nation prepare to re-open, it is important for taxpayers to be particularly aware of this scheme going after students and parents.
“Although variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round, they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike”, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “As students and parents enter the new school year, they should remain alert to bogus calls, including those demanding fake tax payments from students.”
The IRS encourages college and school communities to share this information so that students, parents and their families are aware of these scams.
Scammers are constantly identifying new tactics to carry out their crimes in new and unsuspecting ways. This year, the IRS has seen scammers use a variety of schemes to fool taxpayers into paying money or giving up personal information. Some of these include:
- Altering the caller ID on incoming phone calls in a “spoofing” attempt to make it seem like the IRS, the local police or another agency is calling
- Imitating software providers to trick tax professionals--IR-2016-103
- Demanding fake tax payments using iTunes gift cards--IR-2016-99
- Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals--IR-2016-34
- “Verifying” tax return information over the phone--IR-2016-40
- Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry--IR-2016-28
If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here are some of the telltale signs to help protect yourself.
The IRS Will Never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Search the web for telephone numbers scammers leave in your voicemail asking you to call back. Some of the phone numbers may be published online and linked to criminal activity.
- Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
Changes to the ITIN Program Featured
Today the IRS announced important changes to the ITIN program
The new change may affect up to 400,000 ITIN holders, the changes require some taxpayers to renew their ITINs beginning in October 2016.
Who has to Renew an ITIN?
No action is needed by ITIN holders if they don’t need to file a tax return next year, however, there are two key groups of ITIN holders who may need to renew an ITIN so it will be in effect for returns filed in 2017.
ITINs not used on a federal income tax return in the last three years (covering 2013, 2014, or 2015) will no longer be valid to use on a tax return as of Jan. 1, 2017. ITIN holders in this group who need to file a tax return next year will need to renew their ITINs. The renewal period begins October 1, 2016.
ITINs issued before 2013 will begin expiring this year, and taxpayers will need to renew them on a rolling basis. The first ITINs that will expire under this schedule are those with middle digits of 78 and 79. The renewal period for these ITINs begins October 1, 2016. The IRS will mail letters to this group of taxpayers starting August to inform them of the need to renew their ITINs if they need to file a tax return and explain steps they need to take. The schedule for expiration and renewal of ITINs that do not have middle digits of 78 and 79 will be announced at a future date.
Please click here for more information, if you have questions, please call us at 866-936-2587.
How to Spot a Car Wrap Scam Featured
Have you seen ads promising easy money if you shrink-wrap your car — with ads for brands like Monster Energy, Red Bull, or Pepsi? The “company” behind the ads says all you have to do is deposit a check, use part of it to pay a specified shrink-wrap vendor, and drive around like you normally would. But don’t jump onto the bandwagon. It’s only easy money for the scammer who placed the ads.
How you spot the “offer”
You might see an ad on a job board or on social media. Or someone might send you a message — maybe because they saw your profile or resume on a job site.
How the scam works
The message says you’ll make a couple hundred bucks. But when the “company” sends you a check, it’s for much more than that — a couple thousand dollars. They tell you to deposit the check, keep part of it as your share, and wire the rest to another company that will wrap your car.
Weeks after you wire the money, the check bounces and your bank tells you it was a fake. The money you kept as “your share” disappears, and the money you wired is long gone — no getting it back. On top of that, you’re on the hook for paying your bank back for the fake check. And, of course, no one’s wrapping your car.
How you can tell it’s a scam
If you get a message urging you to deposit a check and wire money back, it’s a scam. Every time. No matter the story. And if this were a legitimate car wrap opportunity, wouldn’t the company directly pay the car-wrapping vendor, instead of asking you to do it?
Has this happened to you? File a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint — select Scams and Rip-offs, then Counterfeit Checks. Want to know more? Read our articles to learn how to spot variations onfake checks and money wiring scams.
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Our first day of class will be on Friday, September 23rd.
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Hello from Gleim in Gainesville, Florida. We are excited about the 2016 National Conference in Las Vegas and are preparing for an eventful show. This year we will be at booth 304.
This year is your year to pass the EA Exam, and Gleim is ready to help! We are the only Enrolled Agent Review on the market that provides Personal Counselor assistance, and are here for you.
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¡Salutaciones de Gleim en Gainesville, Florida! Estamos emocionados acerca de la Conferencia Nacional de 2016 en Las Vegas y estamos preparando para un show espectácular. Este año estaremos en el stand 304.
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