Data Breach: Five Things to Do After Your Information Has Been Stolen

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What You Can Do Now

  1. Stay alert: If you have been part of a data breach, the breached company may send you a notice. Retain all documents and consider any suggestions they may have. Also, pay attention to and retain any mail you receive that is unfamiliar to you, such as notices from the IRS regarding your taxes or any bills from unknown lenders.
  2. Initiate a fraud alert: You can set a fraud alert with Experian. When you request a fraud alert be added with any of the three major credit bureaus, the bureau you contacted will notify the other two and alerts will be added with those bureaus as well. A fraud alert (also known as an initial security alert) will warn lenders that you may have been a fraud victim. This extra precaution will notify the potential lender that they should contact you before granting any new line of credit in your name. This fraud alert will stay on your credit report for 90 days. You can renew the fraud alert when it expires.
  3. Monitor your financial accounts: Visit your online bank and financial accounts, and set up any alert features they may have, if you have not already done so. This could help save some time and keep you notified of any unusual events when they occur.
  4. Monitor your credit reports: You can check your credit report for free once every twelve months by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Checking your credit report can help you identify any unusual activity, such as new accounts, new personal information or inquiries. Experian free credit report members can check their Experian credit report for free every 30 days on sign in.
  5. Freeze or lock your credit file: You may consider adding a security freeze. You can also freeze your credit reports with Equifax and TransUnion®. A security freeze will prevent potential lenders from accessing your credit report. Your credit report will only be accessible by unfreezing the account. If you are planning on applying for new credit in the near future, you could consider postponing the security freeze. Fees and requirements for adding and removing a freeze vary by state. Also, if you are already a member of Experian IdentityWorks, you can lock and unlock your Experian credit report at any time.

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By C Fitts Tax Solutions, LLC Posted in Tax Talk

IRS Provides Help for Hurricane Harvey Victims

IRS logoThe IRS is providing a variety of tax relief for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

IRS Gives Tax Relief to Victims of Hurricane Harvey; Parts of Texas Now Eligible; Extension Filers Have Until Jan. 31 to File

Hurricane Harvey victims in parts of Texas have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments.

 Beware of Fake Charity Scams Relating to Hurricane Harvey

Fake charity scams proliferate after disasters. Donees are encouraged to seek out recognized charitable groups when making donations.

 Retirement Plans Can Make Loans, Hardship Distributions to Victims of Hurricane Harvey

401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can make loans and hardship distributions to victims of Hurricane Harvey and members of their families.

 IRS Waives Diesel Fuel Penalty Due to Hurricane Harvey

In response to shortages of undyed diesel fuel caused by Hurricane Harvey, IRS will not impose a penalty when dyed diesel fuel is sold for use or used on the highway.

By C Fitts Tax Solutions, LLC Posted in Tax Talk

Important Social Security Information for People Affected by Hurricane Harvey

Many Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments are scheduled for Friday, September 1.

Payments by Paper Check Delivered by the US Postal Service

Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the Gulf Coast resulted in the temporary suspension of mail delivery service, as well as the closure of some postal facilities in the Houston area. The U.S. Postal Service is providing additional information on how customers displaced by Hurricane Harvey can retrieve checks they receive via the mail.

Provided here about.usps.com/news/state-releases/tx/tx.htm is a list of Post Office locations, by ZIP Code, where checks will be made available for pick-up beginning Friday, September 1. People must have proper identification to receive their check.

Payments by Direct Deposit

Nearly all payments issued by direct deposit will arrive as scheduled. If a person’s payment is delayed, they should contact their financial institution. If the financial institution is not operating, please see the “emergency payment” information below.

Payments by Direct Express Debit Card (a Treasury Department program)

For recipients in the affected areas who receive their payment through a Direct Express card, fees will be waived, even if they have evacuated out of the area. Payments will be posted to Direct Express cards on September 1.

People may contact Direct Express at 1-888-741-1115 .

Emergency Payment Locations

Social Security has established three emergency payment locations in Texas where Social Security and SSI beneficiaries may request an immediate payment in person if they cannot receive their regular payment. The locations and hours are:

Friday, September 1, and Saturday, September 2:

    • Houston: NRG Center
      2 NRG Park, Houston, TX 77054
      From 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
    • Dallas: Kay Bailey Hutchison Dallas Convention Center
      650 S. Griffin Street, Dallas, TX 75202
      From 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
    • Austin: Tony Burger Center
      3200 Jones Rd Austin, TX 78745
      From 9:30 AM – 3:00 PM

For people who cannot receive their regularly scheduled Social Security payment as a result of Hurricane Harvey, in most cases they can go to any open Social Security office and request an immediate payment. A list of offices that are currently closed, as well as additional information for the public, is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/emergency.

To find the nearest open Social Security office outside of the affected areas, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778 ) or go to www.socialsecurity.gov/locator.

To get more Social Security news, follow the Press Office on Twitter @SSAPress.

By C Fitts Tax Solutions, LLC Posted in Tax Talk

Your Tax Responsibility in the Sharing “Cloud Based” Economy

Tablet Computer With Mobile Phones Stock Photo

Do you make extra money through the use of social media? or your car to pick up passengers? Even rent-out a spare bedroom to make extra money? If so, you’re participating in the Sharing Economy (aka, the gig, on-demand or access economy). Income from these emerging areas is generally taxable, and related expenses may be deductible. Use this link for basic tax tips to keep in mind.

By C Fitts Tax Solutions, LLC Posted in Tax Talk

New Tax Scams to be Aware of!

Credit Card ThiefTaxpayers can avoid scams by taking a few minutes to review the tell-tale signs of these schemes. This is just a few:

EFTPS Scam

A new scam linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) has been reported nationwide. In this ruse, con artists call to demand immediate tax payment. The caller claims to be from the IRS and says that two certified letters mailed to the taxpayer were returned as undeliverable. The scammer then threatens arrest if a payment is not made immediately by a specific prepaid debit card. Victims are told that the debit card is linked to the EFTPS when, in reality, it is controlled entirely by the scammer. Victims are warned not to talk to their tax preparer, attorney or the local IRS office until after the payment is made.

 “Robo-call” Messages

 The IRS does not call and leave prerecorded, urgent messages asking for a call back. In this tactic, scammers tell victims that if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Those who do respond are told they must make immediate payment either by a specific prepaid debit card or by wire transfer.

 Private Debt Collection Scams

The IRS recently began sending letters to a relatively small group of taxpayers whose overdue federal tax accounts are being assigned to one of four private-sector collection agencies. Taxpayers should be on the lookout for scammers posing as private collection firms. The IRS-authorized firms will only be calling about a tax debt the person has had – and has been aware of – for years. The IRS would have previously contacted taxpayers about their tax debt.

Scams Targeting People with Limited English Proficiency

Taxpayers with limited English proficiency have been recent targets of phone scams and email phishing schemes that continue to occur across the country. Con artists often approach victims in their native language, threaten them with deportation, police arrest and license revocation among other things. They tell their victims they owe the IRS money and must pay it promptly through a preloaded debit card, gift card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls” or via a phishing email.

Tell Tale Signs of a Scam:

The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. The IRS will usually first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484 .
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:

How to Know It’s Really the IRS Calling or Knocking

The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as:

  • when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill,
  • to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or,
  • to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.

Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called “notices”) from the IRS in the mail. For more information, visit “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door” on IRS.gov.

 

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Eight arrested in Miami, FL on April 25, 2017, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud!

TIGTA Seal graphic

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release


April 27, 2017
TIGTA-2017-08
Contact: Karen Kraushaar, Director of Communications
Karen.Kraushaar@tigta.treas.gov
(202) 622-6500

Eight Individuals Arrested for Fraud in IRS Phone Scams

WASHINGTON — J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), announced the arrests of eight individuals based upon indictments that charged eleven individuals who were allegedly involved in schemes to impersonate Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents in order to obtain money from victims by falsely representing that the victims owed back taxes or other fees. Two of the eleven individuals were charged in an indictment for their fraudulent conduct last year.

Agents representing TIGTA and the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (SSAOIG) arrested eight suspects in Miami, FL on April 25, 2017, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to the court documents, the suspects are responsible for almost $8.8 million in schemes that defrauded more than 7,000 victims.

“These arrests demonstrate that TIGTA and its law enforcement partners continue to make significant progress in our investigations related to the IRS impersonation scam that continues to sweep the country. Over the past three years, this scam has resulted in reported taxpayer losses of more than $55 million,” the Inspector General said. “The scammers are relentless and so are we,” he added. “Our investigators will not rest until we have brought those responsible for this scheme to justice.”

The eight individuals arrested are: Yosvany Padilla, Elio Carballo Cruz, Esequiel Bravo Diaz, Ricardo Fontanella Caballero, Alejandro Valdes, Angel Chapotin Carrillo, Alfredo Echevarria Rios, and Joel Leon Pando. The criminal indictments were filed with the following courts: the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on April 4, 2017; and on April 19, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi (Joel Leon Pando). Two other individuals, Dennis Delgado Caballero and Jeniffer Valerino Nunez, were previously arrested in May of 2016 based upon Criminal Complaints that were filed in the Eastern District of Arkansas. One suspect, Lazaro Hernandez Fleitas, remains at large.

According to the court documents, the suspects knowingly conspired with others to commit wire fraud by falsely impersonating IRS agents and demanding money under such false pretenses. Victims received telephone calls from people claiming to be from the IRS, who told them the IRS would arrest them if they did not make payment immediately. The callers made these threats and used other methods of intimidation to persuade the victims to wire money, utilizing MoneyGram, Walmart2Walmart Money Transfer, and other wire services.

“No legitimate employee of the United States Treasury Department or the Internal Revenue Service will demand that anyone make payments via MoneyGram, Western Union, Walmart2Walmart Money Transfer, or any other money wiring method, for any debt to the IRS or the Department of the Treasury,” George said.

“Nor will the Department of the Treasury demand that anyone pay a debt or secure one by using iTunes cards or other prepaid debit cards,” he said. “If you receive one of these calls, hang up immediately and go to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) scam reporting page to report the call.”

Investigators verified the identity of the suspects and their activities through a variety of investigative methods. TIGTA and SSAOIG Special Agents conducted the investigations that led to the arrests.

By C Fitts Tax Solutions, LLC Posted in Tax Talk
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13 Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund On Home Improvements

Here’s how to use your refund to refurbish or enhance your home.

$500 refund: It’s all in the details

$1,000 refund: Think upgrades

  • Upgrade your water heater
  • Give your ceiling a lift

$2,000 refund: Add style

  • Upgrade your home’s lighting
  • Treat yourself to wood flooring
  • Build a deck or enhance the one you have

$3,000 refund:  Add features with ROI in mind

  • Add a backsplash to your kitchen
  • Splurge on French doors

$5,000 refund: Go big with projects you’ll enjoy

  • Put up a privacy fence or replace an old one
  • Create a simple outdoor kitchen

 Follow this link for the complete article.

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Private Collection of Some Overdue Federal Taxes Starts in April

CalculatorThose affected by this new program will hear from IRS first. IRS Will Still Handle Most Tax Debts.

Taxpayers: Watch Out for Scam Calls!!! Continue reading

By C Fitts Tax Solutions, LLC Posted in Tax Talk
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Working Grandparents Could Receive #EITC

art-eitc-awarenessWorking grandparents are encouraged to find out, not guess, if they qualify for this very important credit. To qualify for EITC, the taxpayer must have earned income either from a job or from self-employment and meet basic rules.  EITC eligibility also depends on family size. The IRS recommends using the EITC Assistant, on IRS.gov, to determine eligibility, estimate the amount of credit and more.

When claiming the EITC or ACTC, you should file as soon as you have all necessary documents together to prepare an accurate return. In other words, file as you normally would.