Common Tax Scam Warnings

It’s tax season! And this year, just like every year, criminals are out there online looking for ways to trick you and take your money. They can spoof caller ID numbers that appear to be anywhere in the country. They can even spoof an IRS office phone number or the numbers of various local, state, or federal agencies. It’s scary!

On the Rise – Economic Impact Payment Scams

  • Criminals are stealing and cashing economic checks.
  • Fake at-home test kits are being sold.
  • Fake cures, vaccines, and pills are selling, along with advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.

Criminals are even setting up phony websites to sell products that they don’t have and producing fake social media accounts and email addresses. It would be horrible to order something that you think is going to help save your life or the life of a loved one, only to never receive the product and discover that you’ve been duped.

Things the IRS will NEVER do by Phone:

  • Leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages.
  • Threaten to deport you.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying taxes.
  • Call to demand immediate payment in the form of a gift card, prepaid debit card, wire transfer, or a check.

If you owe money to the IRS, they will reach out to you first by mail in the form of a bill/letter. They do not contact you by email to request personal or financial information. So, if you receive something by email that looks like its from the IRS – it’s a scam. Don’t click on anything. Don’t reply. Delete it or move it to your junk box.

Report suspicious online or email activity to the IRS. Simply send an email to phishing@irs.gov.

It’s sad that scammers are taking advantage of our most vulnerable times and our most vulnerable populations. Educate yourself and don’t fall victim to these schemes.

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Contact Tracing Scam

With COVID cases spiking, contact tracers may be more important than ever – and the scammers know it! The Federal Trade Commission put out an official warning to beware of fake tracers who are posing as government employees. These scammers are trying to scare you into exposing your personal and financial information.

You would be surprised how many smart people fall for this scam.

You probably think to yourself – I would NEVER fall for that. I would never give out my personal information to some stranger on the phone. But what if they told you were exposed to the Coronavirus? Or what if they told you that you might have been exposed on a recent visit that you made to your local grocery store or when you stopped to get gas? Kind of changes your outlook a bit doesn’t it!

So, how can you tell the difference between what is legit and what is a scam?

A REAL contact tracer, would NEVER ask for your financial information, social security number, or address. And when it comes to fake emails (that look very real), don’t click on anything. Once you click on the link for more information, malware is installed on your device. You just opened the door and gave a criminal access to everything that you do on that device, including checking your bank account balances, communicating with friends and family through text messages, social media access – everything!

Here’s the thing, a state contract tracer might reach out to you. And you shouldn’t hesitate to talk to them. But they will only ask you for your name and date of birth. If they ask for anything else, it’s a red flag.

Don’t fall for it!

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Happy Birthday America!

While many traditional gathering, fireworks, picnics, and parades have been canceled, today we celebrate our freedom.

In observance of the 4th of July holiday, we will be closed so that our staff can spend time with their families.

We wish you a safe and enjoyable Independence Day.

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Facial Recognition Software

For years, activists have been worried that facial recognition software could end up putting the wrong people in jail.

In October 2018, someone stole nearly $4,000 in watches from a Detroit jewelry store. A Detroit man (who had no criminal record) was wrongly arrested on his front lawn in front of his wife and children.

Why?
Because of an algorithm. Police fed one blurry image through a facial recognition system and it suggested a likely match with the accused’s drivers license photo. The man was later released, and charges were dropped, but the incident begs the question, is the software putting Black Americans at risk?

A few things to note:
1. Facial recognition is NOT probable cause to arrest.
2. Certain images should never be submitted for search.
3. Warranty standards must be up to par with normal legal requirements.

Does the technology amplify bias rather than fight it?
Researches have concluded that facial recognition algorithms often mis-identify more black faces than white faces. So, maybe the use of facial recognition software should be limited to violent crimes and home invasions. And it should certainly require that more than one experienced examiner review and agree with the results.

Cities like San Francisco and Boston have banned the use of companies from being able to sell facial recognition software to the police. The stakes of being under the scrutiny of the police are so high, its just not clear that you can create any kind of system that can be fair and un-bias.

Fierce Debate
Bottom line, there should never be a rush to judgement on guilt or innocence when using facial recognition software. Mis-identification of an arrest is humiliating. It can lead to a permanent arrest record, failed background checks, and much worse.

And there seems to be fierce debate among the people who study facial recognition. Whether you can somehow make the technology reliable enough that bias won’t play into it, or if facial recognition by its nature, it will always reflect the unfair treatment of Black Americans.

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Law Enforcement Continuing to Respond During the Pandemic

The world is facing the toughest battle many of us have ever seen in our lifetime. And even during the unfortunate situation of encountering a COVID-19 related death, Police and Law Enforcement Officers are continuing to respond and serve their communities on the front lines.

From public safety issues, to crime, to not always having the proper equipment, to officer stress, the impact of the Coronavirus on officers has been tremendous. Yet they keep coming back day in and day out to do their jobs.

Why?
Those who take the oath to serve and protect our communities are not in it for financial gain – but to make a difference, because they are passionate about the work. It’s not a career meant for everyone. And it’s important to remember that public safety has, and will continue to be, the number one priority for law enforcement officers.

If you are a law enforcement officer, here are some ways to protect yourself from COVID-19:

• Disinfect all of your gear, including your duty belt
• Wear a mask and be sure you know how to properly use and dispose of it.
• Keep extra masks on hand. One on your person, one in your car, and one in the office
• Use disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer on duty
• Sanitize your phone, your laptop, and your clipboard. Infected droplets might be able to live on any surface.
• Wipe down your patrol car, including your steering wheel, dispatch radio, door handles and modules.

Rest assured, law enforcement officers are continuing to patrol and respond to crimes in progress and emergencies. We need them.

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Beware of a New Email Tracking Scam

There is a new email tracking scheme going on and one that you want to know about. The scheme attempts to install a remote access tool on your smart device by tricking you into opening an email attachment.

To make matters worse, the email claims to come from a very well-known business— John Hopkins Medical Center (known as John Hopkins Hospital). How scary is that?! If the recipient attempts to open the attachment (which is an Excel file), it will open and show a graph of the supposed number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. But, the file is obviously a scam. If you open it, and allow the file to run on your device, a Windows tool called NetSupport Manager will download.

While NetSupport Manager is a legitimate remove access tool, it is commonly known for being abused by hackers, so that they gain access to your personal information and compromise your device. Once a computer system is compromised, the NetSupport Manager will connect to a command-and-control server, which allows the hackers to send other commands.

What NOT To Do:

  • Don’t click on any links that you receive from an unknown source
  • Don’t open any attachments or download anything (even if it looks legit)
  • Don’t ever give anyone your passwords or login information
  • Suspicious emails are real. Scammers are real. Beware of suspicious messages that you receive and don’t let these guys get the best of you.

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Two-Step Verification – Why You Should Use It to Keep Your Information Safe

It’s easier thank you think for someone to steal your password. And with some many fraudulent scams going on, its hard to know how to keep your information secure.
Two-step verification can help keep the bad guys out—even if they have your password.

Here’s how it works!
1. When you get ready to login to your account online, you’ll first enter your username.

2. Next, enter your password

3. Here’s where the two-step verification comes in. After you enter your password, you’ll be asked for a code. The code will be sent to your cell phone by text message. You’ll then enter that code on the computer, and you’ll be logged in like usual.

By making two-step a requirement to login to your account(s), you are further securing your personal information from being easily acceptable, because no one can get in without the code (the one that is being sent to your cell phone). Pretty cool right!

Common mistakes people make that put them at risk for having their password stolen
• Using the same password for everything
• Never changing the password
• Using basic information like a birthday, house number, or wedding date
• Using sequential numbers such as 0000 or 12345
• Clicking on links in a text or email from an unknown source

Just remember, no form of online security is 100% full proof. But, if you do your part and do everything you can to make it harder for the bad guys to access your information, you’ll be one-step closer to keeping your information secure.

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Beware of scammers attempting to intercept your economic stimulus payment

During this unprecedented time in our nation, thousands of people are falling victim to criminal scammers who are committing fraud due to COVID-19.

Most taxpayers will receive stimulus payments through direct deposit. But some will receive their payment through traditional paper checks. Many of the paper check recipients are elderly and many are those who do not use banking services at all.

Five useful tips that can help you avoid falling victim:

  1. Know that the IRS will NOT call you. The IRS will NOT text you. The IRS will NOT email you. They do NOT work like this. If you receive messages from the IRS through any of these mediums from someone requesting information about your economic payment, it’s a scam!
  2. Remain vigilant against the criminals who are plotting to take your money. Report suspicious calls to law enforcement immediately.
  3. If you want to check the status of your stimulus payment, visit the IRS website at www.IRS.gov and click on “Get My Payment.” ONLY use this website. DO NOT use any other sites or services that claim to be able to process your payment.
  4. Do not click on links in emails. If you don’t know who it came from, ignore it or delete it.
  5. NEVER share your personal information or financial information with anyone.

    Useful Information
    The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), is the agency who is responsible for protecting the integrity of the federal tax administration, including attempts to impersonate the IRS to defraud taxpayers.

    If you fall victim to criminals using this pandemic as an opportunity to commit fraud, contact TIGTA at https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact.shtml.
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Social Networking Online

For many of us, social networking is life! From spouses looking at social media to kids and teens playing video games, and now we are all working at home, along with our kids doing online school – it opens the door for the bad guys to interrupt our daily lives.

Get the conversation started with your families using these online safety tips!

1. Never register on a gaming site using your real full name.
Your first name is fine, but there is absolutely no need to use your real last name, date of birth, city, address, or any personal information like this. By taking the time to create an alias, it will help reduce the risk of being targeted and becoming a victim.

2. Be Real!
Be yourself, be kind, be honest, and be respectful, just like you would if you were talking to a person standing in front of you.

3. Use Smart Passwords
Passwords should never be shared with anyone other than your spouse. Use letters (a mix of upper and lowercase), numbers, and symbols. Never use easy passwords, such as your birth date, your age, or sequential numbers, such as 1,2,3,4,5 or 0000.

4. Social media posting – use caution!
Keep your posts clean and NEVER post inappropriate messages. Don’t talk about sex or share explicit pictures with anyone EVER. Not even by text messages or in your private story. All someone has to do is take a quick screen capture and pass it on to others. It can put you at risk with strangers and friends, and it could come back to haunt you as you get older and look for employment, colleges, clubs and activities, church functions, and more.
Once you post something (even if you delete it later), it’s out there in the universe and almost impossible to take back.

5. NEVER, ever, ever meet an online friend (that you don’t know) in person. There is absolutely no way to be certain that the person you meet online is really who they say they are. It’s easy to fake a profile picture, it’s easy to post a description of yourself that isn’t real, and it’s easy to post fake information.

Be smart, be alert, and think before you react.

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Coronavirus Scams

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting people of all ages and ethnicities. It has no color and does not discriminate. But, leave it to scammers to be ready to prey upon vulnerable people at a time like this. They have already created several ways for defrauding people and they simply have no shame.

The U.S. Attorney put out a recent press release with a message warning people not to fall victim to these scammers. Their office is working with law enforcement partners to help protect the public against deceitful crooks.

Some examples of scams linked to COVID-19 include:

  • Treatment scams: Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
  • Supply scams: Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
  • Provider scams: Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment for that treatment.
  • Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.
  • Phishing scams: Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
  • App scams: Scammers are also creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information.

Be wary of unsolicited emails and those requesting your personal information online for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will never contact you in this manner.

Source: https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/us-attorney-warns-coronavirus-scams-targeting-vulnerable-victims

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