Sunday, December 20, 2015

If the IRS calls, hang up!

Listening to the local news a few days ago, I cringed as another innocent victim fell prey to the well-known IRS scam whereby an "agent" calls you to report you are delinquent on your taxes and owe penalties in the form of heavy fines. See the story: Local couple loses money to IRS scam.

If you receive a message of this nature on your voice mail, do not return the call. If you pick up the phone and someone claims to be from the IRS, hang up the phone without saying anything.

Know this: The IRS will not call you to collect back taxes. They use the postal service for notifications of this nature.

Victims of this scam are typically immigrants and the elderly. But any of us can become a victim of fraud or any social engineering scam if we aren't on our toes. Stay alert and reject any such phone calls. If you do return such a call or engage these guys on the phone, then you've validated your phone number, and they will keep trying.

Just hang up!

If you do receive such a call, you can report it to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for tax administration at 800.366.4484. If you receive an email that appears to be an IRS scam, forward it to, and then delete the message or send it to your spam or junk email folder. Do not reply to any such email.

How do we fight back? Sharing this message with anyone and everyone you know is the best way to put a stop to this threat. Spread the word. Information is our most effective weapon.

For more information:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A few online holiday shopping reminders

For those last-minute shoppers, I hope you've ordered your online gifts by now because it looks like deliveries might be delayed this year due to the big couriers like UPS and FedEx being overwhelmed with deliveries. (Note that has said they're going to buy their own fleet of long-haul trucks; that'll take care of the recurring holiday shipping delays in the future.)

But for those of you still shopping, here are three tips for safe shopping on the web, from Bob Sullivan's blog:

  1. Update your software first. Make sure all the latest patches are installed before you start spending online.

  2. Use two-factor authentication on e-commerce and banking sites that offer it. Amazon just recently started using this extra step that makes it really hard for your account to get hacked.

  3. Use only one credit card online. This is how I do it. I have a card that I carry with me, and another that I've memorized and use for all my online shopping and other online payments. No sites have my checking account number, and I'll never provide it.

  4. Stick with known shopping sites; if not, do your research before using a "small business" or other site that you're not familiar with, for that extra special, custom gift.

  5. Enable text alerts on banking transactions. I haven't done this one yet, but it's a good idea. I'm going to do it today. Going forward, I'll receive a text any time my credit card is used.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Keeping the Holidays Free From Fraud: Tips for Your Business

If you are a small business owner, read on.

This morning a friend of mine who owns a small business shared a BizAhead article with me, written by Laura Buck. Here is a bullet list of the tips she offers for keeping your small business safe from fraudsters this holiday season:

  • Encrypt payment information with end-to-end encryption
  • Be on the lookout for suspicious sales, such as unusually large orders without any contact from the customer or rush orders for pricey goods
  • Watch and educate your employees - train them in not clicking that link, and then test them, re-test them, and test them again
  • Be observant - keep an eye out for credit card skimmers
  • Be sure to shred sensitive information - don't take short-cuts because it's the holiday season
  • Keep your wallet and credit cards close by - the other day while I was shopping, a woman left her purse in the top of her grocery cart and walked away just long for someone to grab it; no one did, but it would have been sooooo easy
  • Be vigilant about security and safety
  • Protect your passwords, pass phrases and PINs

For the full article, see Keeping the Holidays Free From Fraud: Tips for Your Business. The holiday season is prime fraud and scam time. Stay alert and question anything out of the ordinary or unexpected.