Tag Archives: protect

Help Older Adults Stand Up Against Scams

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently reported in financial exploitation cases that older adults lost an average of $34,200. Unfortunately, these funds are often never recovered. You can ensure this doesn’t happen by learning more about scams and how to protect yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Recognize the scams.The best way to protect yourself from a scam is to understand what they look and sound like. Here are a few key elements to look for when identifying a scam:
  • You are promised a great offer or benefits
  • You are forced to make quick decisions
  • You are pressured to provide financial and/or personal information
  • You are threatened

Did you know? IRS impersonation scams are the No. 1 scam targeting older adults, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, with more than 2.4 million Americans targeted.

  • Know why you are a target.You and other older adults may be targeted because you own a home, and have retirement savings and exceptional credit — a treasure trove for con artists to pillage. Scammers take advantage of trusting older adults because they’re less likely to say no and sometimes have cognitive issues that affect decision-making skills. In other cases, family members and non-related caregivers may have easier access to their funds, making them more susceptible to theft.
  • Keep your personal and financial information safe. Keep your bank information, Social Security card and other finances stored somewhere secure in your home. Think twice about what you are sharing on Facebook, and don’t give out your Social Security or account numbers without vetting the person or company asking you for it. Con artists find useful information on social media sites about your family members and then pretend to be a relative who asks for money, or they could directly ask you for sensitive information over the phone or via email.
  • Hang up if you feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry about being impolite if someone on the phone is pressuring you into sharing sensitive information. Hang up. If the call comes from a company you trust, you can call back and ask for the department that handles your account to determine if the call is for a legitimate reason.
  • Turn down unsolicited offers. If you receive a call or an in-person visit from someone you don’t know selling you a product or service you didn’t request, turn it down or tell them you’ll decide at a later time. If the service or product interests you, conduct independent research on three suppliers. Proactively contact all three and determine the best offer. Include a trusted family member in the decision-making process. Doing this can effectively eliminate most scams.
  • Use direct deposit. You can avoid having your checks stolen when you arrange for your checks to be directly deposited into your bank account. Ask your bank to show you how.
  • Speak up if you think you’re a scam victim. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed if you think you’ve been scammed. Instead, let people know right away.
  • Call your bank and/or credit card companies.
  • Reset your account passwords.
  • Call the police to report stolen property.
  • Submit a consumer complaint using the FTC consumer Complaint Assistant.
  • Report the scam by calling the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
  • If you suspect elder abuse is also involved, contact adult protective services.

Payroll Fraud Schemes Every Business Should Know

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, nearly 30 percent of businesses are victims of payroll malfeasance, with small businesses twice as likely to be affected as large businesses. Here are four scary payroll fraud schemes you need to know:

  • Ghost employees. A ghost employee does not exist anywhere except in your payroll system. Typically, someone with access to your payroll creates a fake employee and assigns direct deposit information to a dummy account so they can secretly transfer the money into their own bank account.
  • Time thieves. Time stealing happens when employees add more time to their timecard than they actually worked. Sometimes multiple employees will team up to clock each other in earlier than when they arrive or later than when they depart for the day.
  • Shape-shifting commissions. In an attempt to bump up a commission payment or attain a quota, sneaky sales employees may alter a sales contract to their benefit. A typical tactic used by a dishonest salesperson is to make a booked sale appear larger than it is and then slide a credit memo through the system in a later period. Companies with complicated commission calculations or weak controls in this area are the most vulnerable.
  • External swindlers. A popular scam, known as phishing, starts with a fraudster impersonating a company executive through email or over the phone asking an employee with access to payroll data to wire money or provide sensitive information. These imposters can make the correspondence look very real by using company logos, signatures and email addresses.

Tips to combat payroll fraud

Being aware of the threats is a start, but you also need to know how to stop them. Here are some tips to reduce your company’s payroll fraud risk:

  • Better internal controls. While most employees are trustworthy, giving too much control over your payroll to one person is not a good idea. Separating payroll duties and formalizing an approval process protects both your business and your employees.
  • Review payroll records. Designate someone outside of the payroll-processing department to periodically review the payroll records. Have them review names, pay rates and verify that the total payroll matches what was withdrawn from the business bank account.
  • Perform random internal audits. During an internal audit is when you can really get into the details to look for potential payroll fraud. You can do an in-depth review of the whole payroll system or select a random sample of dates and employees. Keep the timing of the audit under wraps to prevent giving someone the chance to cover up their misdeeds.

Managing your business payroll is a daunting task by itself, and actively protecting against fraud adds additional complexity.

Most Passwords Are Easy to Guess. Do This Instead.

You’re doing your passwords all wrong.

So says the developer of the guidelines most internet users have been following for 15 years, anyway. Passwords that L00K l!ke tHi$ are actually much more susceptible to hacking than most people realize, says Bill Burr, former manager of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and author of the NIST’s 2003 recommendations for password management.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Burr said that his previous advice to use numbers, symbols and randomized capitalization resulted in people creating passwords that are easy for computers to predict.

A more secure option is to use four random words, such as “that purple monkey dishwasher.” Such a phrase is actually much more complicated for computers to guess, The Wall Street Journal reports. (Cartoonist Randall Munroe explained the math in a comic six years ago.)

Some password advice remains relevant, however: avoid using birthdays or anniversaries, your kids’ names or your address, as all of this information is easy for hackers to locate. Additionally, use different passwords for each of your accounts and avoid storing them where they can be easily seen or stolen.

With cybersecurity threats on the rise, CPAs are paying attention to such advice. (An article about Burr’s interview that appeared in last Thursday’s CPA Letter Daily was one of the week’s most clicked stories, natch.) Strong passwords are just the tip of the iceberg, though. CPA firms and their clients are looking at ways not only to protect sensitive information, but also to report on those efforts.

In response to this need, the AICPA has updated its Cybersecurity Resource Center to provide information on protecting firms, advising clients and reporting on an organization’s cybersecurity efforts – all using the recently released AICPA cybersecurity risk management reporting framework.

Lindsay N. Patterson, CAE, Senior Manager – Communications and Public Relations, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

http://blog.aicpa.org/2017/08/most-passwords-are-easy-to-guess-do-this-instead.html#sthash.Pv0nJVjc.dpbs

Protecting Your Social Security Number

Very few things in life can create a higher degree of stress and hassle than having your Social Security Number (SSN) stolen. This is because, unlike other forms of ID, the SSN is virtually permanent. While most instances of SSN theft are outside your control, there are some things that you can do to minimize the risk of this ever happening to you.

Never carry your card. Place your SSN card in a safe place. That place is never your wallet or purse. Only take the card with you when you need it.

Know who needs it. As identity theft becomes more of a problem, there are fewer who really need to know your Social Security Number. Here is that list.

  • The government.The federal and state governments use this number to keep track of your earnings for retirement benefits and to ensure you pay proper taxes.
  • Your employer.The SSN is used to keep track of your wages and withholdings. It also is used to prove citizenship and to contribute to your Social Security and Medicare accounts.
  • Certain financial institutions.Your SSN is used by various financial institutions to prove citizenship, open bank accounts, provide loans, establish other forms of credit, and report on your credit history.

Know who really does not need it. Many other vendors may ask for your Social Security Number, but having it is not an essential requirement. The most common requests come from health care providers and insurance companies. But the request for your number may come from anyone who wishes to collect an unpaid bill. When asked on a form for your number, leave it blank. Challenge the provider if it is requested.

Destroy and distort. Shred any documents that have your SSN listed. When providing copies of your tax return to anyone, distort or cover your SSN. Remember your SSN is printed on the top of each page of Form 1040. If the government requests your SSN on a check payment, only place the last four digits on the check. Prefill the first five digits with X’s.

Keep your scammer alert on high. Never give out your SSN over the phone or via e-mail. Do not even confirm your SSN to someone who happens to read it back to you on the phone. If this happens to you, file a police report and report the theft to the IRS and Federal Trade Commission.

Proactively check for use. Periodically check your credit reports for potential use of your SSN. If suspicious activity is found, have the credit agencies place a fraud alert on your account. Remember, everyone is entitled to a free credit report once a year. You can obtain yours at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Replacing a stolen SSN is not only hard to do, it can create problems. You will need to re-establish your credit history, reassign your SSN benefits history, and realign your tax records. Your best defense is to stop the theft before it happens.

Cyber-Security – Simple Suggestions to Protect Your Business

Is your company vulnerable to cyber-crime? Most computer and/or network security breaches are the result of a lack of understanding of the importance of security processes within a company.  It’s important to recognize how implementing effective security procedures can protect your clients’ privacy, guard against misuse of confidential information and benefit your business.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Establish and maintain best practices for computer security.
  • Make sure that each system user has a unique login.
  • Grant system permissions to users as needed.
  • Protect all networks and hardware against viruses.
  • Monitor system activity.
  • Run regular backups.
  • Educate employees on passwords – creating strong passwords and not sharing their passwords.
  • Prohibit employees from opening email attachments (particularly ZIP files) from unknown or suspicious sources.
  • Disable access to the network and all cloud solutions for former employees.

Setting up and following these simple suggestions can help keep your company and its reputation safe and secure!

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Fraud

Imagine this – you’ve given us all your documents early, we’ve prepped and processed your tax return, you’ve reviewed it and signed the eFile forms… then we call you and advise you that your tax return rejected eFiling because someone has already filed using your social security number! Sadly, this can happen if you become one of the growing number of victims of tax return identity theft. At least one estimate shows tax-related identity theft cases have increased 650% since 2008. Identity theft can delay your tax refund, but other consequences could be credit card debt or loans taken out in your name.

To avoid becoming a victim, we recommend the following:

  • Safeguard your social security number and other financial information. Don’t send financial documents via email unless you use an encryption program. To send documents to us, use our LeapFile application to securely send us documentation.
  • Check your bank and credit card transactions regularly and monitor your credit ratings.
  • Don’t give out your information on the phone, even if the caller identifies themselves as an agent of the IRS or other authorities.