By Amanda L. Richter, CPA
With tax season around the corner you can expect an increase in tax related scams. Which it is why it is important to know how to identify a scam quickly so that you do not find yourself in a situation where you have divulged personal information or given money to a scammer. Below are a few tips to be aware of and things to be on the lookout for.
First, it is important to understand how the IRS initiates contact with taxpayers. Most communication with the IRS is through regular mail such as the U.S. Postal Service. There are very few circumstances where the IRS will contact a taxpayer at his or her home or business. If you do receive a phone call from the IRS it is likely due to one of the following circumstances:
- As a result of an overdue tax bill. Keep in mind that prior correspondence through regular mail would have been sent to you.
- To secure a delinquent tax return.
- To tour a business as a result of an audit or criminal investigation.
Next it is important to understand what the IRS will not do. This includes:
- Make threatening phone calls and demand that you use a wire transfer or prepaid gift card to make a payment. Instead, payments should be made payable to the U.S. Treasury or can be made online at: IRS.gov/payments
- Demand for immediate payment. Remember, the IRS will send you several notices including the option to appeal or provide you with information to contact the IRS regarding questions on the amounts that are owed.
- Threaten to contact the local or state police. This type of scam is a popular tactic with the goal being to scare you into making an immediate payment with the scammer.
You should not give out sensitive information including your SSN, date of birth, address, bank account, etc. over the phone or through email unless you know for certain who you are speaking with and that the individual is in fact who they say they are. If you do not owe taxes and have no reason to think that there are any issues with your account, you can report the scam to the IRS via email at email@example.com. You will need to include the caller id and call back number when submitting the information to the phishing department.
Ultimately, if you are ever in doubt about the caller – hang up! You can contact the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 regarding your individual account or 800-829-4933 for your business account. You can also view your account online with the IRS by going irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account.
Ask Kit Kat: Special Dogs
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us how specially-trained dogs, known as conservation dogs, help track endangered species?
Kit Kat: Well, this is another wonderful story! Dogs, as you may know, have a keen sense of smell. This is just not an interesting characteristic, but a useful one as well. We all have heard about how service dogs help the blind, sense diabetics’ low blood sugar, and even can alert medical personnel to the presence of cancer. Now there is a new use to which they are being assigned—assisting with the tracking of endangered species. Their fine sense of smell is being used to track endangered species through detection of scat (fecal matter) that a particular species leaves in its particular environs. This method has the advantage that the species in question does not have to be trapped to gather information. According to the Journal of Wildlife Management, this method has been used to collect data about the San Joaquin kit fox, gray wolves, cougars, and others.
Now scientists have switched their attention to reptiles. The focus of their research is the blunt-nosed leopard lizard in the San Joaquin Valley (CA). To track this particular lizard, they used one female German shepherd and two male border collies. The dogs were very precise about identifying the correct type of scat. From the samples, scientists got information about the diet, habitat, and even gender of the reptiles. The samples were taken over a four-year period. The dogs would signal when they had found the correct sample by laying down next to it. The blunt-nosed leopard lizard is considered endangered, because much of its habitat has been destroyed.
The next step is to determine if this method can work on a larger scale. “So many reptilian species have been hit so hard,” says Mark Statham, of Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He continues, “This is a really valuable way for people to be able to survey them.” Kudos to the dogs who have brought us this far! (“How conservation dogs help track endangered species,” www.cnn.com, Oct.30, 2019)