In this series of blogs we will examine all topics under the information security umbrella. From corporate blunders to rogue state attacks to the occasional celebrity hack, we believe there is something for businesses and individuals to learn from any cyber security event. We also believe that, while experience is the best teacher, it’s even better to let other people make the mistakes for you.
If you don’t know that taxes are due on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, frankly I would begin to get a little worried. That said, many of us are still hustling to get things completed in time and, in the rush, might be a bit less meticulous than we ordinarily may be. It’s not just personal filers who are at risk, though, as tax preparers are getting inundated with phishing scams at a higher rate than ever. That’s why this edition of PYN is going a little analogue and focusing on preventative measures for everybody’s favorite time of year- Tax Season.
The Dirty Dozen
It’s not just a star-studded WWII movie from back when action movie stars were actually badasses in real life (think Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, and Lee Marvin, just to name a few), it’s also the list of tax scams that the IRS just published as the year’s biggest threats. By my estimation, the list should be broken into two different categories, though, and because I’m writing this, we’re going to do just that.
The Sinister Six
Words are fun, especially when there’s alliteration involved. The items on this list are all actually scams where there is an unscrupulous tax-time predator and a target. Presumably, after reading this, that poor fool will be someone other than you, of course.
- Phone Scams – We know better than anyone else that phones are still the number one way to conduct business, legitimate or not. And just as Broadcast TV loses all of the headlines to streaming content but commands more in ad revenue, telephone scams also persist to rake in the cash for scammers with a silver tongue. Rule of thumb- any, ANY, unsolicited offer is one you don’t have to entertain until you’ve done some due diligence off of the phone.
- Phishing – This one is simple. The IRS, your doctor, HOA, or any other organization will never send out emails for you to update your personal tax and banking information. It never happens. Ever. So stop clicking those emails, please.
- Identify Theft – This isn’t really a scam relegated to tax season, just always be on the watch and “cover your pin keypad” so-to-speak. Keep your private information private.
- Return Preparer Fraud – This is a tough pill to swallow because it can create a chilling effect on our trust of professionals, but by staying with reputable, national or recommended tax preparers, you should be safe. If your preparer doesn’t have the proper credentials, they shouldn’t be handling your taxes.
- Inflated Refund Claims – If you see someone broadcasting a ridiculously high return number I refer you to number four.
- Fake Charities – Sometimes you have a bad year, sometimes you have a good year. When you have a good one you may look to “harvest losses” to offset your gains, if so, make sure you aren’t accepting unsolicited offers for charity (See number one) and that you give your hard earned money to an organization you really believe in and that won’t land you in hot water for claiming a fake charity.
The Wrist-Slap Six
The other half of the Dirty Dozen is really a bunch of tax “strategies” that really aren’t covered by the PYN umbrella. I’ve listed them below for posterity (and so I could make a new alliterative six-itemed list name, obviously) but a quick glance of them reveals that they are all products of decisions made by a tax filer, not a predator thereof. That said, don’t do these things, that would not be awesome.
- Hiding Income with Fake Documents
- Abusive Tax Shelters
- Falsifying Income to Claim Credits
- Excessive Claims for Fuel Tax Credits
- Frivolous Tax Arguments
- Offshore Tax Avoidance
That’s it for the cautionary portion of this edition of the VirtualPBX Security Serial, though I’m sure someone somewhere is hard at work right now giving us more material for the next one. The next thing you’ll want to focus on, however, is what to do with all of that hard-earned tax-return cheddar you’re going to be getting here shortly. I don’t have anything against jet-packs and Caribbean cruises, but we are also running a very limited, very special offer on all of our VoIP office phone equipment.
Sure it’s a great deal that probably won’t ever happen again, but you might also want to look into some capital investments in your business, you know, for tax purposes. As always, stay safe and remember to Protect ya Neck.