Fraudsters are at it again with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue being their latest target in the new scam. Scam artists are impersonating the department by sending business owners fraudulent letters in the mail directing them to turn over their accounting records. The PA Department of Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell is urging PA business owners to be on high alert if they receive a suspicious notice from the Department of Revenue.
What’s the Goal?
The goal of this scam is to trick unsuspecting taxpayers into providing sensitive financial information that can be used by the scammers for illicit activities that could harm a business’ financial standing. The scam artists want to make recipients believe they are being investigated by PA Department of Revenue for an “alleged violation of delinquent sales tax liability.” They are using the department’s name and logo in the notice and threatening taxpayers by saying penalties will be imposed on their accounts. The notice also includes contact information for a “Resolution Officer” and asks the recipient to provide accounting records prepared by an attorney or CPA.
Providing scammers with this information allows them to look through all of those personal records and steal information like bank account numbers and other important financial data, which then can be used to make unauthorized transactions, request fraudulent tax refunds and even apply for loans under the name of your business.
Tips to Keep in Mind
Even though these notices have the department’s name and logo on them, there are inaccurate details that can help you identify between a counterfeit notice and a legitimate notice sent by the Department of Revenue. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you get a notice:
- A legitimate notice from the Department of Revenue will always include an official return address. Counterfeit notices do not include a return address.
- The Department of Revenue will address the business owner or business name. A counterfeit notice will address recipients as “Dear Business Owner.”
- A counterfeit notice is sent by the “Pennsylvania State Revenue Tax Investigation & Enforcement Unit” and claims your business is “under investigation by the Pennsylvania State Revenue and Cash Disbursement Unit.” These units do not exist. If you ever question if the “Unit” name exists, reach out to the department directly.
- The counterfeit notice claims that your business has not registered their “entity with the Pennsylvania Department of State and The Sales and Use Tax Division.” If you are an established business in PA, you should already have registered your business with the PA Department of State and have registered for a sales tax license by completing the Department of Revenue’s PA Online Business Entity Registration (PA-100).
How do I Avoid the Scam?
The PA Department of Revenue is encouraging taxpayers to be on the lookout to safeguard against this scam. The following are tips to keep in mind:
- Ensure You Are Speaking with Legitimate Representatives of the Department. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a notice from the department, you can reach out to a representative by using the Online Customer Service Center. This allows a taxpayer to securely submit a question that is similar to the process of sending an email.
- Examine the Notice. Counterfeit notices will use vague language, have factual errors, inconsistencies, come unexpectedly and demand immediate action. Take notice for identifying information that can be verified.
- Conduct Research Online. Use information from a potentially counterfeit notice to conduct a search online through the Department of Revenue’s website. This is the best source to verify information contained in a legitimate notice from the department.
Remember to stay alert for tax scams and use the tips provided above to look out for fraudulent notices. If you are concerned about a fraudulent notice, visit the Verifying Contact by the Department of Revenue webpage.