Be Smart, Be Safe
I once talked to an IRS agent who didn’t know the due date of the 1040 tax return for individuals. Yeah… that was one of the many ways I could tell I was dealing with a scammer. But they don’t always make it so easy. In fact, it’s getting downright hard.
At the beginning of the new year, scammers take advantage of a period of confusion and unfamiliarity around the tax season. They pose as banks, the IRS, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, accountants, attorneys, and even your co-workers. We want to provide some mindful tips you should always practice.
1. If it’s unexpected, be wary.
There isn’t much in our lives that isn’t planned and automated. If an “authority” introduces an issue of sudden and immediate jeopardy, or a unexpected prize, remember there are laws that require proper notification. Any valid email or call will not come out-of-the-blue. You would have expected it.
2. Email, text, and unexpected phone calls are not used for proper notification.
The IRS doesn’t use email to provide a notice. It doesn’t call you about penalties like a collection agency. If there are unpaid taxes, you will be legally notified in writing, had an audit if you dispute it, and perhaps have a judgement set against you if it has gone that far. In other words, it shouldn’t be unexpected.
3. Looking official doesn’t mean it is.
The most recent email example we’ve seen posed as Amazon with disclaimers, links, logos, everything. With any unexpected message, check by using the normal methods you use to access the account or service. Do not use methods they provide.
4. Scammers pressure you to act immediately.
Using all sorts of methods of punishments or rewards, the scammer doesn’t want you to take a moment to ensure validity. Many of them will tell you not to hang up or they can’t help you. They’ll get angry or ignore you when you if you interrupt or ask questions. They will threaten to call the police to arrest you. They want to overwhelm you before you can take a moment to think.
5. They want you to pay with … gift cards???
Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. Some will attempt to access your account or funds by sending you a check that’s no good, and then ask you to send the money back.
6. Service with an evil smile.
I have been messing with computers and software since the mid-1990s. I’ve worked in tech support from front line to writing lines of code. There is not a computer or software provider in the world that is going to contact you pro-actively to let you know there is a problem with your computer. That kind of customer service doesn’t exist and never will, because those companies seek to reduce support costs using patches and updates.
7. Saving the sneakiest for last.
A more recent and unassuming trick has happened to us at Sechler Morgan. Here’s the scenario. You get an email from your boss. The email looks like, and even says it was sent from their phone. “Your boss” tells you they are at a place and want to give someone a gift card or wire money. See where this is going? Just like point one, you know what’s abnormal. We suggest you make it a point in your organization to have established methods that everyone knows, so you can better tell when it’s not a valid request. With any small doubt, it’s always best to double check.
And for our part, the team at Sechler Morgan will always include all their contact information. If you every receive something from us you don’t expect, call the main number at 602-230-2700 or directly contact anyone on our team you know. Let’s be careful out there.
Joe Atredies, Office Manager