It’s that time of year again – Time for Income Tax Scams

Every year at this time scammers come out of the woodwork with new scams and reusing old ones designed to obtain tax information for identify theft and financial fraud purposes.  Sometimes these scams are directed at individual taxpayers and at other times they are targeted at businesses and institutions like ours.

The IRS is has already noted a number of scams this year targeting individual recipients by name. Targeted requests are often harder to identify as fraudulent.  These often involve sending modified versions of legitimate IRS forms by fax or e-mail and requesting the recipient fill them out and return them.  These forms are modified so that the recipient to provides all the personal and financial information the scammer needs to perpetrate their fraud.

A recent example can be seen below:

First the real form W-8BEN used for foreign persons to designate their non-US tax status:  http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw8ben.pdf

Then the fake W-8BEN notice and form some people have been receiving (click to enlarge):

Note in particular the use of a non-IRS e-mail address, the implied urgency: “return to us within 24 hours,” and the insistence on faxing the document rather than using US Mail.

Be especially cautious about any communication that claims to be from the IRS or your employer and that claims to urgently need personal or financial information for tax purposes.

If you receive anything that you believe to be a tax-related scam, you can report it to the IRS here: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing

The IRS also provides the additional information to help protect yourself from “The Dirty Dozen Tax Scams:” http://www.irs.gov/uac/Don%E2%80%99t-Fall-Prey-to-the-2011-Dirty-Dozen-Tax-Scams

And a guide to “Tax Refund Scams:” http://www.irs.gov/uac/IRS-Urges-Taxpayers-to-Avoid-Becoming-Victims-of-Tax-Scams

 

Improvisation…

On a recent trip to St Louis, my wife and I listened to Tina Fay talk about her life.  We were listening to her audio book Bossypants.  It was all very entertaining, but I found her stories on “improv” very interesting… and I thought I would share what I learned.  I know it sounds a little odd… why would I share little gems about improvisation on this blog?  One answer is that stories from every walk of life can help us reflect and provide insight into our own situations.  My wife’s answer is that I think too much… and that might be just as valid.  You can use your own judgement.

Regardless, I took away the following advice when you are asked to do improvisation.

  1. Commit.  Seems simple enough.  You can’t go into improv half way.
  2. Agree.  If someone tells you an apple is really a banana and you say “no it isn’t”, then you’ve just killed the conversation.  This is a partnership in which each party must agree with the other in order to be successful.  No matter where the story goes, you have to go along.
  3. Add value.  If you are told the apple is a banana and you simply reply with a question like “where did you get it?”, you are placing the burden back on your partner to continue the conversation.  On the other hand, if you say “that banana is radioactive”, you’ve added to the story. 
  4. Don’t limit yourself.  After all, this is improv, anything is possible.

OK, so why did I find this relevent to my work with technology?  Because the use of technology is a partnership and its too easy to disagree and kill the conversation.  Its much more rewarding if you can agree with the desired application and add value.  Try to guide the conversation to a successful end.  And don’t limit yourself to existing models and practices, there may be options not yet on the table.  Participate, be positive and be flexible.

Obviously, life is not improv.  We have limitations to what we can do… and we have to ask a lot of questions to understand desired outcomes and applications.  But we can add value and have some fun along the way. :)

Maybe my wife is right…