All of us encounter “phishing” expeditions in today’s seemingly anything goes communication environment. We receive emails from purported loan financing companies saying our latest payment bounced and demanding that we verify our bank information or our loan will be immediately called. They are phishing for our personal banking information and urgently demand that we email them that information. We receive letters in the mail from credit card companies asking for banking information in order to activate the credit card. Phishing for that information by requiring us to call the 800 number with the information must have some success. We receive letters and emails from a trust account administrator located in Kenya stating we have inherited $1,500,000 and the administrator just needs $5,000 for the legal expenses to release the funds and we can keep the $1,500,000. We must Western Union the $5,000 now and include the bank account to which he can send the $1,500,000. When pigs fly is the term I’m thinking of but it just seems to go on and on.
Another phishing example became apparent last week. I received a number of calls from clients that an official looking letter was received from a “Corporate Records Service”, located in Lansing, asking for $125 in exchange for preparing their 2013 Annual Corporate Records. The letter had the look of an official government document from the State of Michigan, coincidentally also located in Lansing. It looked very similar to the Corporate Annual Report form that every corporation has to file, coincidentally, with the State of Michigan each year. While it is true that a corporation is required to have an annual meeting and prepare minutes and a record of the annual meeting, it’s also true that the corporation is not required to pay $125 to the Corporate Records Service to prepare those annual meeting minutes and records no matter how official the letter looks. A search on the Better Business Bureau’s website turned up a BBB Alert on Corporate Records Service. The BBB of Virginia reveals that Corporate Records Service and its parent company, The Mandatory Poster Agency Inc., has an “F” rating, “the lowest possible rating”. The alert goes on to state that, “On February 8, 2013 the Wisconsin Attorney General filed a formal complaint claiming the mailings have the “look and feel” of a government document and that the information on the form and envelope constitute “untrue, deceptive or misleading statements made with the intent to sell a service.” Evidently, the Iowa Attorney General agrees with the BBB and Wisconsin because they also filed a complaint against the parent company and reached an agreement stating that “the company cannot. . . imply that its products are somehow mandatory or approved by government agencies.” The bottom line here is that a lot of corporations are receiving letters from Corporate Records Service and it’s a phishing expedition for $125 in this case. It is not illegal but it does use some “phishing” marketing to ask for $125. This is also a good time to point out again that each corporation is required to hold an annual meeting and keep a record of that meeting to be in compliance with Michigan corporate law.
As noted above, phishing is very popular among the scam artists of today. However, it seems that the area of most abuse is in the general area of identity theft in the specific area of income tax returns. The IRS maintains a “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams” and Identity Theft overwhelmingly leads the list. “We know identity theft is a frustrating and complex process for victims.” says the IRS. It is a process that the IRS takes very seriously. To back that up, the Criminal Investigations Division of the Internal Revenue Service has invested more than 500,000 staff hours with over 3,000 employees fighting identity theft issues. The IRS stopped more than $14 billion of fraudulent refunds from being issued in the 2011 tax year and more than $20 billion in the 2012 tax year. Good for the IRS. That is $34 billion less in taxes all of us would have had to pay and the federal deficit is $34 billion lower because of the IRS’ good efforts. To see what reference materials the IRS provides, go to www.irs.gov and type in “identity theft” in the search field. There are a number of articles and direction for victims and for those who believe they might be victims. In these instances, the IRS is there to help. I know that sounds out of the ordinary, but it is true. This is Jerry Coon signing off.
Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent and
a Registered Tax Return Preparer.
He owns Action Tax Service on
Northland Dr. in Rockford.
Contact Jerry through his website: