ID Thieves Don’t Discriminate, Health Professionals Are At Risk

ID Theft and Refund Fraud - Dental CPA

Health professionals are at risk of identification theft and refund fraud. This compilation of resources offered in this Rea & Associates resource will help you through the next steps to reclaiming your identity if you have been targeted.

What has become abundantly clear over the last several years is that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you live or how you make a living – identity thieves do not discriminate. While tax refund fraud has been around since 2008, the size and scope of the scam has ballooned since then. Fast forward to 2013, and we find that the rapid escalation of this particular scam claimed a jaw-dropping $5.2 billion, according to the United States Government Accountability Office.

Locally, business owners continue to steadily report instances of identity theft and tax refund fraud to local law enforcement as well as to their financial advisors. From our perspective, we continue to see more instances of refund fraud than in previous years, particularly among healthcare professionals, which is a trend that is only expected to get worse.

Read: How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Is It Too Late For You?

You probably won’t even know that you’ve been a victim of tax refund fraud until it’s too late. Some taxpayers will learn about the breach after receiving a letter from the IRS or from their state’s taxation department. It’s also likely that your accountant will be the first one to make the discovery when they try to file your tax return and receive a notification that the name and Social Security Number of their client – you – has already been used.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

Once it’s been discovered that you have been victimized, the burden is on you to prove your identity to the IRS to obtain the tax refund that is rightfully yours. The good news is that once you are able to prove that you are who you say you are, the IRS will happily release your money. But the bad news is that the entire process can take a lot of time and can be confusing to navigate.

Rea & Associates recently released a compilation of documents and resources from a variety of sources to help victims recover from Identity Theft & Refund Fraud, which can be an overwhelming task in itself. The steps victims must complete include:

  • Filing a report with the local police
  • Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
  • Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert on your credit records.
  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice by calling the number provided
  • Complete the Identity Theft Affidavit

You don’t have to go through it alone. Your financial advisor can help you through the steps and can communicate with the IRS on your behalf. Your advisor can also determine the validity of documents and phone calls if you have further concerns.

IRS Calling? Don’t Buy It

In addition to stealing your federal and state tax returns, some scammers are going the extra mile to harass their victims to pay “back taxes” that they don’t actually owe. It’s important to remember that the IRS will never contact you by phone or in person. The first correspondence you will have with the IRS will always be in the form of a letter – not a phone call. Last year, more than 1,000 taxpayers collectively lost about $5 million after scammers called to demand payment to settle their debt with the IRS. Failure to pay, the scammers warned, would result in jail time and driver’s license revocation.

For additional guidance, click here to read How to Recover from Identity Theft & Refund Fraud: A Compilation of Documents and Resources and get access to valuable information about what you should watch out for and how you can recover. For more information or for help claiming your tax return, email the Bright Dental CPAs at Rea & Associates.

By Alan Hill, CPA (Mentor office)

 

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Dental Practices Should Beware Of Wire Transfer Scam

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a wire transfer scam alert for all small businesses in the United States. According to the FBI alert, between October 2013 and December 2014, 1,198 complaints from U.S.-based companies were received dealing with wire transfer scams. Losses from these incidents totaled more than $179 million. The FBI also reports that the scams can follow a Ransomware incident, and may involve a fraudster contacting a vendor and requesting a change of payment to an alternate fraudster-controlled bank account.

Though this particular alert was intended for small business owners, dental practice owners should also consider the impact of this scam and determine if their practice is safe from such a scam.

How To Mitigate This Type of Scam

The FBI recommends the following mitigation steps for these types of scams:

  • Keep all of your anti-virus software up-to-date.
  • Educate your practice employees about security best practices.
  • Be sure that any changes to payments via electronic transfer are verified with an employee of the bank and at a phone number that you utilize for assistance.
  • Don’t use alternate phone numbers provided via email or by a bank representative contacting you.
  • Always call the institution back and verify that you are communicating with your bank.
  • Monitor all of your practice’s financial transactions on a daily basis. Suspected electronic fraud must be reported in a single business work day.
  • Use two-party authorization access to complete all wire transfer transactions.
  • Utilize biometric authentication to verify the identity of authorized users.
  • Use online bank portals that require strong fraud controls to complete all wire transfer transactions.

You can find more information about the FBI’s scam alert here. This site also provides detailed samples of how the scams will be run against unsuspecting businesses.

If you have any specific questions about how this scam might impact you or if would like more information on IT security best practices, contact our Bright Dental CPAs.

By: Ryan Dumermuth, CPA, CFP (Mentor office)

 

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Is Your Dental Practice Safe From Scammers?

One of our clients, a dentist, received a disturbing email last week … from himself.

The message said that he was robbed while on vacation with his family and needed money to pay his hotel bill and to purchase plane tickets to return home. The scammers attempted to make the email appear genuine by using the dentist’s name and address. It was then sent to his entire contact list.

Fortunately, his contacts realized that the email was a scam and did not send money. However this email serves as another reminder of how persistent and clever scammers have become. For example, this particular email referenced our client’s name, business address, office phone number and even used the “DDS” distinction following his name in the signature.

Is Your Practice Safe?

Avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim. Here are a few scams you should be on the lookout for.

What it is: A popular file encrypting program that locks your computer and your computer’s files until you pay up. Some victims have reportedly paid up to $10,000 to get their files back.

How to protect yourself: The best way to protect yourself against this is to back up your computer and files daily. You also want to be sure not to click on any links from emails that you aren’t expecting.

What it is: Victims receive a phone call from a scammer claiming to be an IRS representative. The caller threatens the victim with legal action if back taxes are not paid immediately.

How to protect yourself: Remember that the IRS will never call or email you in an attempt to collect payment. They will also never ask for your credit card or social security information over the phone. If you ever receive a call from somebody claiming to be the IRS, hang up and call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission by using the “FTC Complaint Assistant” at www.ftc.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

What it is: If your tax return was rejected by the IRS after you filed it online, it’s likely a scammer filed a tax return using your name and social security number to get a fraudulent refund. Thousands of American taxpayers were victims of this scam last year – and there is no reason to believe that this scam is going away.

How to protect yourself: Provide your tax documents to your CPA as early as possible. The best way to ensure that your tax return is filed correctly and that your refund is distributed appropriately (if one is due), is to beat the scammers and file your return early.

Protect Yourself and Your Practice

Contact a Bright Dental CPA if you have been affected by one of these scams or want more information on how to protect yourself against these threats.

By Alan Hill, CPA (Mentor office)

 

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