We’ve hit on tax scams, tax related identity theft, and other pitfalls to watch out for as tax season approaches. Educating our clients on identity and tax related theft trends is the best defense we can offer to you, the practicing dentist. High net-worth individuals, such as yourself, are just as susceptible to tax scams as everyone else. Identity thieves are becoming more and more skilled and equally as creative in obtaining your private data. If you want to protect your identity and your hard-earned cash, be extra vigilant with any dealings that ask for — or — require personal information. By knowing what to look for, you can spare yourself a great deal of financial and mental anguish.
Most people understand the basics on phishing sites, but it’s not always so easy to tell the fake from the legitimate. A phishing site is one that looks like a normal website, such as Amazon. However, these phishing sites have one goal, and that is to obtain your financial information. When browsing the web, be sure to look for the padlock and the “s” in the HTTP part of the website address, which indicates it is a safe, secure site. If you don’t see those two features, or you believe something doesn’t look or feel right (poor spelling/grammar), exit the site immediately.
If you ever receive an email from an entity claiming to be your bank, the IRS, Paypal or another similar site, proceed with extreme caution. Most of these emails are scams that want access to your sensitive information by providing a false sense of urgency. The most common scams are emails stating your account needs to be updated, or that you owe a fee or fine. Be aware neither your bank, the IRS nor any other legitimate website will ever request your information in the form of an email. Issues with your accounts, or current dealings with a government entity such as the IRS, will always occur via regular “snail mail.”
Unauthorized Computer Access
Perhaps the most insidious scam is the ability of one or more hackers to gain access to your entire computer. If this occurs, you will receive a message informing you that you must pay a certain amount to regain access to your computer and files. An anti-virus program can usually stop this type of takeover, but sometimes it is unsuccessful. If this happens to you, you can either choose to pay (although there’s no guarantee you will regain access to your information), or you can make it a habit to back up your files on a separate disk, flash drive, external hard drive and online file backup system. Should you find yourself in this situation, immediately contact the authorities, your bank and any credit card companies to alert them to what has happened.
I hope this brief overview can help you identify some of the ways thieves can obtain your private and personal information. It’s unfortunate that we have to cover these topics, but it is imperative. To our firm, being a dental accountant means more than just focusing on our client’s finances. We go above and beyond to ensure our level of service and advisement far exceeds anything you’ve experienced before.