Scams

Tax Form 1040

IRS Agent Lady Allegedly Tries and Fails to Scam Unwitting Taxpayer Out of Thousands

When we talk about IRS scams, we’re usually referring to chain-smoking Indian dudes packed into a dingy call center trying to scam Google Play cards out of your grandma. Although few Americans might say they trust the IRS, I think we can all agree that at the end of the day, an overwhelming number of […]

Barbed Wire Jail

IRS Scammer Ordered to Pay $9 Million in Restitution For Being Scummiest of the Scamming Scumbags

Given that this is a website written for accounting professionals and not, say, confused grandmas who think Steam cards are a valid form of payment for debts to the U.S. government, we rarely cover the topic of IRS phone scams. We assume, perhaps naively, that y’all are smarter than that and don’t need reminding. The […]

uhy-recruits-fraud-bank-account

Protip: Don’t Give Your Bank Information to Anyone Claiming to Be an Accounting Firm Recruiter

Never trust anyone online wearing a hoodie. Good night, nurse, what is this: Executives at UHY Advisors are sounding the alarm about online scammers who have been impersonating recruiters at accounting firms, offering enthusiastic young job seekers new career opportunities and internships. All the applicant must do, scammers tell them, is sign an acceptance letter […]

Some IRS Scammers Trying the Good Cop Routine Now

Figuring they can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, a few IRS crank yankers have switched up their MO: Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but now the IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of verifying tax return […]

The Stupid But Wealthy Athlete’s Guide to Not Getting Ripped Off

Wealthy athletes are easy to scam. Really easy. Not all athletes know how to handle a fortune. Wealthy athletes are good at playing sports, not managing their millions. We financial types who know how to do sexy stuff like add (er, ten key and use spreadsheets) have a duty to protect the investor –- even […]

IRS To Crack Down on Idiots Who Misuse Refund Direct Deposit

The Journal of Accountancy's unnecessarily dramatic headline — Limit on direct deposit of refunds will go into effect in 2015 — doesn't quite capture what's really going on here. What's really going on here is that the IRS wants to limit those who have lots of refunds put in their account. Presumably, a taxpayer should […]

PwC Is Raking It In on Old Fraud

As the multibillion-dollar scheme led by Tom Petters approaches its sixth anniversary, the meter is still running for the lawyers and accountants sorting through the corporate empire created by the former Wayzata businessman, and the array of creditors and investors who did business with him. More than $83 million has been paid to the lawyers […]

TIGTA Reveals There Are Still Stupid People Falling for Fake IRS Phone Scams

Despite having warned taxpayers over and over that the IRS does not and will not call you and demand you wire over some cash, apparently some people are still falling for this. So much so that TIGTA felt compelled to send out a friendly reminder: The Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) today issued […]

Word to the Wise, You Don’t Have to Pay KPMG To Work at KPMG

As far as scams go, I have to say these kinds of scams are pretty bad. Preying on desperate people who have nothing left to live for and therefore are applying at KPMG job applicants with high hopes of Big 4 employment and bilking them out of untold sums of money with fake offer letters […]

Sorry Ladies, This Ryan Gosling Look-alike Is Just an Accountant

If you're in Detroit and had your picture taken recently with a guy who you thought was eye-candy actor Ryan Gosling, you should know that it was simply a tax accountant who looks quite a bit like eye-candy actor Ryan Gosling. It just so happens that when this tax accountant, Doug, wears sunglasses and a […]

Scamwich Artist Takes Trademark Accountant Cheapery To An All New Level

In these troubled times, it makes sense to pinch pennies whenever possible. I managed to find an oil change place to regularly give me half off on my $90+ synthetic oil only service just by being charming, personable and – presumably – a chick. Some of us clip coupons. Others haggle (you guys should be […]

Georgia Accountant’s Instincts Prove Useful in the Wild

When someone of the debit and credit arts is functioning in its natural habitat (e.g. a cubicle farm), instincts are acute. Within these walls, all it takes is one glance at a schedule of figures and even the youngest accountants can spot something amiss. "That Excel formula has a circular reference," one might say, or […]

IRS Employee And Her Boyfriend (Allegedly) Scammed Taxpayers Using TETR Credit

34-year-old IRS employee Patricia Fountain and her 39-year-old boyfriend Larry Ishmael were arrested last Wednesday and charged with defrauding the federal government in a tax refund scam in which Fountain allegedly used her position with the IRS to rip off unsuspecting taxpayers. Patty the bad IRS employee has been charged with conspiring to file false […]

The IRS’ Latest Scam Warning Is For The Poors and Olds

The helpful folks at the IRS are warning seniors and other high-risk taxpayers of a new scam that lures those people into filing fraudulent tax returns. Though GC readers are obviously far too sophisticated to fall for any kinds of schemes like this, it's worth sharing anyway. The scheme tempts people with little or no […]

Tax Refunds From ‘Secret Government Accounts’ Still Turning Out to Be Bogus

What’s most interesting about this particular scam is that it involved more people – 55 – than some accounting firms’ entire headcount.

A grand jury has indicted 55 people for participating in scams that tried to bilk the government out of more than $250 million in undeserved tax refunds, prosecutors in California said on Monday. Thirty-two indictments were returned by the grand jury accusing the people of various schemes to obtain the refunds. Millions of dollars were paid out, including a check worth almost $1.2 million, the prosecutors said. The owners of one California company were accused of making presentations that claimed customers could get tax refunds from a “secret government account” after making payments to the company and agreeing to pay a percentage of any refunds they received, the prosecutors said.

Grand jury indicts 55 for $250 million in tax scams [Reuters]

UPDATE: Are Deeply Discounted CPA Review Programs Legit?

I Pass the CPA Exam was asked if a $799 “Becker” program being sold online could possibly be legit. After asking the owner of the site peddling the stuff, Stephanie asks Becker directly if they allow affiliates to sell their product wholesale to other retailers so they, in turn, can cut the price. Something about this just doesn’t seem right, why would Becker want to get ripped off on its own product, which it routinely sells for $3,000 (give or take)?

When in doubt, maybe you should ask the review course:

I continue my due diligence and ask Becker directly whether the serial number from CPApassmaster would indeed verifiable at their site. This is their answer:

“The only legal site for Becker material is www.becker.com.”

Well, I would appreciate if Becker can just be a little bit more helpful in terms of explaining this further, but knowing how Becker is (big and institutionalized with little “real” customer service), this is probably the best we can get.

Then, I heard from industry sources that in fact Becker is trying to stop this offering via an injunction, and supposedly Becker can render all their materials with serial number from this reseller unverifiable if / when they are allowed to do that.

Interesting. I agree with Stephanie’s assessment that whoever she spoke to at Becker is probably just some hack in a headset who barely knows what the CPA exam is, let alone is high up enough to actually comment on their policies.

It would be interesting to hear this directly from, say, a Becker high up. Hint, hint. Perhaps a qualified Becker manager would like to get in touch and clear the air.

UPDATE: Becker spokesperson Molly Tarantino wrote me last night to clarify Becker’s policy on unauthorized dealers. Please consider her comments before going for a cheap review course that is NOT offered directly from the company:

Becker Professional Education does not support materials purchased through unauthorized dealers. Only materials received directly from us are guaranteed to be authentic. Unauthorized dealers, such as CPAPassmaster, are either in violation of their license with Becker or selling counterfeit materials. Counterfeiting is illegal and purchasing counterfeit products supports this illegal activity. This type of activity is especially troubling since it is occurring within a profession whose foundation has always been and always will be based on ethics and integrity.

SEC Warns of Pre-IPO Investment Scams

The SEC seems awfully interested in social media these days, and we assume it has little to do with Caleb’s obnoxious Whole Foods foursquare check-ins. Their latest nemesis? Pre-IPO investment scams purporting to be offering shares in hot non-public companies like Twitter, Facebook and Groupon.

SEC staff is aware of a number of complaints and inquiries about these types of pre-IPO investment scams, which may be promoted on social media and Internet sites, by telephone, email, in person, or by other means.

In September 2010, a judgment order was entered in favor of the SEC based on allegations that a scam artist had misappropriated more than $3.7 million from 45 investors in four states by offering fake pre-IPO shares of companies, including Centerpoint, AOL/Time Warner, Inc., Google, Inc., Facebook, Inc., and Rosetta Stone, Inc. In addition, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a recent investor alert about these types of scams. While offerings of pre-IPO shares in a company are not uncommon, unregistered offerings may violate federal securities laws unless they meet a registration exemption, such as restricting the private offering to “accredited investors” — investors who meet certain income or net worth requirements.

Investors should be mindful of the risks involved with an offer to purchase pre-IPO shares in a company. As with any investment, we encourage investors to research thoroughly both the investment product and the professional offering the product before making any investment decision.

Since AOL/Time Warner went public in 2006, we have to assume the scam artist referenced above had been at this for quite some time before the SEC was finally able to bring down the heavy hand of justice on dat ass.

If you’re interested in further reading on the subject, check out FINRA’s Pre-IPO Offerings—These Scammers Are Not Your Friends:

In general, offerings of securities must either be registered with the SEC or meet an exemption under the federal securities laws—otherwise the offering is not legal. “Pre-IPO” speculation involves buying unregistered shares in a private company before the initial public offering of securities—and it can range from risky deals to outright frauds.

Wait, does this have anything to do with that whole Goldman Sachs Facebook embarrassment?

Beware emails from Nigerian princes selling pre-IPO shares in hot tech companies, people.

The IRS Would Like to Remind You That They are Not Spammers

With tax season over, scam season has begun and the IRS wants to be sure that you know they will never send you unsolicited e-mails or request identifying information about you a la PayPal scams. Because, you know, they’re helpful like that. Since many of you are waiting patiently by your mailbox (or bank statement if you E-filed for direct deposit) for your refund checks, it’s all that much more important to be on the lookout for these kinds of tricks hitting your inbox.

Protect yourself, little taxpayer, and know that the IRS is here to help make sure you don’t get scammed by unscrupulous impersonators:

The IRS does not send taxpayers unsolicited e-mails about their tax accounts, tax situations or personal tax issues. If you receive such an e-mail, most likely it’s a scam.

IRS impersonation schemes flourish during filing season. These schemes may take place via phone, fax, Internet sites, social networking sites and particularly e-mail.

Many impersonations are identity theft scams that try to trick victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to access their financial accounts. Some e-mail scams contain attachments or links that, when clicked, download malicous code (virus) that infects your computer or direct you to a bogus form or site posing as a genuine IRS form or Web site.

Some impersonations may be commercial Internet sites that consumers unknowingly visit, thinking they’re accessing the genuine IRS Web site, IRS.gov. However, such sites have no connection to the IRS.

IRS Spokesperson Jennifer Henrie-Brown gave us a few tips for avoiding scams and reporting sketchy e-mails to the Service to combat the spamming problem: “The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail and does not request detailed personal or financial information through email. If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site, you should not reply. Do not open any attachments or click on any links. Doing so may download malware that can damage your computer or allow remote access to your hard drive,” she told us.

What do you do if you get one of these weird, misspelled, bad-grammar-infested fake e-mails claiming to be from the IRS? “If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from the IRS, or Web addresses that do not begin with http://www.irs.gov, you can relay that email to IRS mailbox phishing@irs.gov. IRS can use the information URLs and links in the suspcious emails you sent to trace the hosting Web site and alert authorities to help shut down the fraudulent sites.”

Suggested reading: Online Scams that Impersonate the IRS [IRS]

The Latest Homebuyer Tax Credit Scam: Now with HUD!

That the First-time Homebuyers Credit is riddled with fraud is old news. Like all refundable credits, where the government writes you a check if the credit exceeds the tax shown on your return, it’s a magnet for grifters. What’s new is cross-agency efforts enable First-Time Homebuyer Credit fraud, with video.

James O’Keefe, notorious for donning pimpwear and taping ACORN officials happily facilitating tax fraud and child prostitution, and then for getting arrested in Louisiana, took his act to Detroit and Chicago offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development posing as a tax credit scammer. One conversation went like this:

The law says that the tax credit maxes out at $8,000 for an $80,000 home. On the tape, O’Keefe asked a staffer, “What if I bought a place for $50,000, but the seller and I agreed to write down $80,000 as the purchase price?”

“Flip it any way you want,” the staffer replied.

What if the place is worth much less — like only $6,000?

“Yup, you can do that.”

This version of the Homebuyer Credit scam can get around the checks the IRS has in place to prevent fraud. The primary IRS anti-fraud check for the homebuyer credit is a requirement that a copy of an HUD-1 form or settlement statement be attached to the 1040 claiming the credit. If the buyer and seller collude to dummy up a HUD-1 form, the “buyer” is reasonably likely to get the credit as long as there isn’t some other item on the return that flags it – such as an address that’s different from the one for the “home” on the settlement statement.

The scammers wouldn’t be out of the woods by any means. The IRS might well catch up with the scammers. But then again, they might not, or if they did, the money could be long gone. For someone living in in a Detroit neighborhood where houses sell for as little as $1,000, splitting $8,000 with a scammer might be one of the less-risky opportunities at hand.