July-August 2016 | UNDER ATTACK!

UNDER ATTACK!Leslie A. Michalik CPA, CFE



Scammers are preying on unsuspecting victims now more than ever. PKS & Company’s Leslie A. Michalik CPA, CFE, details how to protect your loved ones

QUESTION: A member of my church group just lost her life savings. She was fooled by a man who said he worked for the government and was trying to help her. That is terrifying to me. What steps should I be taking to ensure I’m protected? 

ANSWER: There are several ways individuals pretending to be government officials get you to send them money. Here are some of the most common:

You owe taxes or a debt. You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent, from the Federal Trade Commission or the sheriff’s office. They claim you owe money and demand payment. They insist on payment through wire transfers or credit card payments and threaten to have you arrested if you don’t pay immediately. 
You’re approved for a government grant. Someone claiming to be from a government agency offers to help you get a government grant. They may use the name of a real agency or a realistic made-up name in order to fool you. In order to receive the grant, you are required to pay an advance or a fee.  
You’ve won a sweepstakes. You receive a call from an official-sounding government agency, informing you that you’ve won a prize. In order to claim that prize, you have to send in money to cover the taxes or fees. They may ask you to wire money to an attorney’s office or insurance company to convince you that the prize is real, or they may ask you for your bank account information so that they can direct deposit the money into your bank account. 

The goal of all these scams is the same: They want you to send them money. In addition, they try to get your Social Security number, credit card number or other personal information that they can use to steal from you. Fraudsters can use this information to open credit card accounts, make charges on existing credit cards, apply for loans in your name or withdraw money from your checking and savings accounts. 

Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim. 

The IRS will never call you or email you without sending an official letter in the mail first. If you are concerned, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and speak with an actual agent. 

Legitimate government agencies will not require you to pay an advance or a fee in order to win a prize or obtain a grant. Don’t wire any money or put money on a prepaid debit card. Wiring money is the same as sending cash. There is no way to get it back.  

You may receive an email sending you to a legitimate- looking website. Avoid clicking on links provided in emails. Instead go to the government website. Look closely at the domain name. Real government agencies usually have domains ending in “.gov.” 

The caller-ID number may be fake. Fraudsters will use Internet technology to disguise their numbers, making it look like they are calling from Washington, DC.  

Don’t give out or confirm bank account information unless you know who you are dealing with. Also, protect your Social Security number and credit card numbers, as well as passwords and PINs.

If you think you have been victimized, contact your local law enforcement, state attorney general or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, at 1-877-382-4357.

Editor’s note: Leslie A. Michalik CPA, CFE, is one of PKS & Company, P.A.’s longest-tenured employees, with more than 30 years of service with the firm. She is a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner who specializes in many areas of practice, including Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination and Prevention. Michalik is professionally affiliated with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

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