Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — Fraudsters are impersonating the Department of Revenue by sending Pennsylvania business owners fake letters in the mail directing them to turn over their accounting records. The purpose of this ploy is to trick unsuspecting taxpayers into providing sensitive financial information that the criminals behind the scheme can use for a range of illegal activities that could seriously damage a business’s financial health.
“This is a prime example of scammers impersonating a government agency while trying to convince hard-working Pennsylvanians to hand over sensitive business information,” said Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell. “We urge Pennsylvania business owners to be alert if they receive a suspicious notification that includes the Department of Revenue’s name and logo. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a notice from the department, please use the contact information listed on our website, earned.pa.gov. It’s the best way to make sure you’re talking to a legitimate employee at the Department of Revenue.”
The purpose of this scam is to make the recipient of the letter believe that they are being investigated by the Department of Revenue for an “alleged violation of delinquent sales tax liability.” The letter also threatens taxpayers, saying penalties will be imposed on their accounts. The letter also includes contact information for a “restructuring officer” and calls on the business owner to provide accounting records prepared by a licensed professional, such as an attorney or CPA.
Providing this information allows fraudsters to search accounting records for sensitive information such as bank account numbers and other financial data that can be used to make unauthorized transactions, claim fraudulent tax refunds and even apply for loans on behalf of the business .
Although these fake notices bear the department’s name and logo, the notices include suspicious and inaccurate details that can help distinguish between a fake notice sent by a scammer and a legitimate notice sent by the Department of Revenue. Be on the lookout for notifications that make dubious claims or include suspicious details. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- The forgery notice does not include a return address. The notice from the Department of Revenue will always include an official address of the Department of Revenue as the return address.
- The fake notice addresses the recipient as “Dear Business Owner”. When the Department of Revenue attempts to contact a business by notice by mail, the notice is usually addressed to the business owner or business name.
- The fake notice was sent by the “Pennsylvania Income Tax Investigation and Enforcement Unit” and claimed the business was “under investigation by the Pennsylvania Division of Revenue and Cash Disbursement.” While the department conducts criminal tax investigations and tax enforcement, the units listed in the counterfeit notice are fake. Contact the department directly as listed below to determine if the specified “department” exists.
- The fake notice claimed the business did not register their “legal entity with the Pennsylvania Department of State and Division of Sales and Use Taxes.” If you have an established business in Pennsylvania, you have likely already registered your business with the Pennsylvania Department of State and registered for a sales tax license by completing the PA Department of Revenue Business Entity Registration Online (PA-100).
Tips to avoid this scam
The Department of Revenue encourages Pennsylvania residents to keep the following tips in mind to protect themselves from this scam:
- Make sure you speak with legitimate department representatives: This scam uses the name and logo of the Department of Revenue to pretend to be a government organization. If you are at all in doubt as to the legitimacy of a Department notice, you should contact a Department representative using the online Customer Service Center. This allows the taxpayer to securely submit a question through a process that is very similar to sending an email.
- Check out the notice: This fake notification uses vague language to cast a wide net to attract as many victims as possible. Review the notice for identifying information that can be verified. Look for obvious factual errors and other inconsistencies. If the notification is unexpected and requires immediate action, take a moment to verify its legitimacy.
- Conduct surveys online: Use the information in a potentially fake note, such as a name, address, or phone number, to perform an online search. The Department of Revenue’s website, earned.pa.gov, is the best source for verifying the information contained in a legitimate Department notice.
Steps to follow if you have a question
If you are concerned about a potentially fraudulent notification, please visit the Department of Revenue’s Contact Verification Unit webpage for verified phone numbers and contact information. This will help ensure that you are speaking with a legitimate department representative.
CONTACT WITH THE MEDIA: Jeffrey Johnson, [email protected]
# # #