Tax season is stressful for a multitude of reasons. One stress, in particular, might be more dangerous than you might realize. Scammers and hackers take advantage of this busy and stressful time to attempt to steal and take your personal information by posing as IRS or other government employees. One of the biggest things they've been coming after recently? Your social security.
We are under a month now from Tax Day, and I know we are all feeling that reality. We know that this might have been a particularly stressful time of year for you, but you just have to wait it out a little bit longer. Your tax return will be in your bank account before you know it. But as we are speeding towards the official end of 2019's tax season, there might be more than getting your paperwork in on time that you need to be concerned with. Hackers and scammers use this time of the year to prey on thousands of people to steal their personal information and gain access to their social security. I'm sure many of our readers have been experiencing a huge rate of unknown phone calls recently. That's not just because it's election season. Scammers and hackers have become some of the most dangerous and frightening intelligent criminals out there.
Cybercrime that uses emails and phone calls to extract highly personal information has become one of the most expensive crimes in the world. It's costing companies billions of dollars in stolen information and damages. These criminals are becoming smarter and more in tune with how they can disguise themselves to make strangers believe that they are companies, business, and official governing bodies that you can trust. The most disturbing is that they prey on groups of individuals who are most likely to fall for these scams, individuals who rely on their social security to live on. They can, and they do, attack almost anyone they can, but they are starting to focus more and more on groups of individuals who are unaware of this type of crime and who are the most unfamiliar with technology.
One of the largest groups being attacked are the elderly and retired. Scammers go right to the source calling direct personal home or cell phone numbers. These criminals pretend to be IRS, other government, or bank employees and are looking to bait their callers into giving them what they want or backing them into a corner and threatening them until they do. So what do these scams look like? They usually come in the form of a phone call or an email. Usually, it is a pre-recorded message stating that your social security account has been compromised or frozen. They can also threaten that there has been an issue with your taxes and filing them. Which during this time of year, is very believable. They will say that you either have to pay a certain amount of money to unlock or save the account, pay to prevent legal action, or pay to prevent the police from showing up and arresting you.
If a scammer calls you in real-time, they make the same accusations. Sometimes they go as far as giving you a case number and know just enough information about you or the family member they are trying to scam, that their case seems very legitimate. They then might begin asking for very personal information, like the last digits of your social security number or the bank account number you use when filing your taxes. If you put up any kind of fight or question these claims or refuse to answer questions, that's when it could start getting ugly. Threats could be thrown out that legal action will be taken, that the police will show up, or other harm could come to you and your family. That's when the baiting starts to happen. Once they begin to make threats, they will say the only way to protect your social security account or to fix these issues is to pay them in cash, to wire cash to them, pay them in gift cards, digital currency like bitcoin, or other strange ways.
When it comes to emails, the scammers can create emails that look official. They will create logos to place within the email, write a very convincing message that looks very professional, and create an email address that looks legitimate. The message will be very similar to that of the above-mentioned phone calls, and the only way to protect or stop these actions is to pay them in similarly strange ways and provide them with very personal information. If you receive any kind of phone call or email like this, hang up immediately and pay no mind to the email. Know right now, that if the IRS or the Government needed to get in touch with you, this is not how the process would go at ALL. You can now report these phone calls and emails online to the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. The administration is cracking down on these kinds of daily attacks, and are working hard to eliminate this threat.
All of that being said, know that your social security number cannot be suspended, revoked, blocked, or frozen. Personal information should, and would be, in front of or available to an actual government official if they needed it. They don't need it from you. If the social security offices do call or email you, you have the option of withholding answering anything until you physically call the office back and make sure that it is the social security office that you're dealing with and that there is a real issue. Call them at 800-772-1213 and go from there. Please make note that phone numbers can be spoofed to look as convincing as possible, so don't fall for any phone number. No actual government employee would ever ask you to wire money, send or pay in cash, or to buy them a gift card as a form of payment EVER. If you are ever threatened with arrest or legal action, this is not the government you are talking to, this is a scammer.
These phone calls and emails can be very scary and very convincing. Because these criminals are getting smarter by the day, they know exactly how to get just enough information and say all the right things to scare whoever they're talking to. If it does happen that you do become victim to a situation like this, do not be embarrassed and try to handle it yourself. Report it right away. Visit the website for the Office of the Inspector General (below), the IRS website, or your local police. Your local police will be able to direct you to the proper authorities to deal with these situations. Also, help your loved ones in these situations. Tell them about the possibilities of getting these types of calls and attacks. Prepare them for the situation, and walk them through how to handle it best. Keep them aware of these kinds of situations. Keep communication open about this situation, and keep your loved ones safe.
Tax season is already a stressful time. Add on some very convincing criminals, and some real damage could be done. Stay alert, stay aware, and protect yourself. We have included the website to report any phone calls or emails at the bottom of this blog. You can help stop these criminals and keep yourself safe. While tax season is coming to an end, remember that we are your premier service in Goose Creek to help you prepare and get through every tax season. You don't have anything to fear this season if you work with us. You're going to be in good hands.
Report any kind of abuse or potential scam to this website IMMEDIATELY!
There are many loose ends you need to tie up at the end of any year for your personal taxes and those of your small business. You also need to be staying on top of the many changes coming your way in 2020 taxes. You might have more work ahead of you, so it's better to be prepared now for what is quickly heading your way.
You've made it through the holidays and all the celebrations that go along with them, both in your job and with your families. As tax season approaches for the 2019 fiscal year, you need to start thinking about a few new changes that you'll be seeing sooner rather than later, along with tying up a few loose ends.
In this blog, we won't be discussing all of the changes that are heading your way. We will just be touching on some of the most important. You will see changes in the W-4 form in 2020, in State withholding, Federal W-2s and State Deadlines, ACA Compliance from the State, and in Gig Economy and worker classification.
Changes with W-4 Forms
In 2020 you're going to see changes with the IRS W-4 tax form. They have changed the form and given it a bit of a facelift. The changes include calculations for income tax withholding. There is a new form that has been added for the head of the household as well. The new form eliminates withholding allowance. As an employee, you will just adjust your withholdings by putting your tax information on your W-4 forms. This will include non-wage income, full-year deductions, and any child or any other dependent tax credits. If you own a small business or are getting a new job in the year to come, filling out tax papers will be much different than previous years. Since you probably don't know all of your tax information off the top of your head, and you probably won't be carrying around copies of last year's tax refund, take more time filling out the paperwork. If you are a business owner, allow your employee to take it home. Ask your new employer for a private space to call home or your tax professional to fill out all the information. If you are happy with your current withholdings at your job now, you will not need to fill out the w-4 form again. If you need to change anything for your future taxes, you will have to fill out the new paperwork.
The new W-4 paperwork could affect state tax withholdings. Many states are still trying to figure out how to work with these new changes, so you or your small business won't be the only one trying to follow along. You will need to prepare for these changes by the end of next year, as their decisions on how to deal with these new changes will also affect how you file your taxes. The main issue many states are dealing with right now is the fact that there is no longer a box for allowances on the federal tax forms. Different states are picking different ways to handle the situation. One option that might become the norm is taking the focus away from income tax and shifting to pay-roll taxes. This might not be a very fun solution for many of us, but be prepared. When it's time to do taxes and paperwork for 2020, make sure to pay attention to the choices your state has made to deal with the W-4 changes.
Federal W2s and State Deadlines
In 2020 the tax rate will remain the same for employees and employers, at 6.2%. Medicare tax rates will also stay the same as they were in 2019. The IRS has now moved up the W-2 submission deadline to January 31st. They have done this to continue the fight against tax fraud and identity theft. Most states will now require electronic W-2 filing from your employers. Many states have also increased the penalties for late filings of W-2 forms. Be very aware of these due dates. These fees can add up very quickly and become very costly.
The good news for you, if you're feeling overwhelmed for next year's tax season, is that we are here to help you keep up to date on these changes. We are here to help you understand them, help guide you through them, and prepare for them. These charges vary from small differences to ones that will affect you on a state and federal level. Just like any tax law changes, the new ones we will be seeing in 2020 will evolve into others. So don't get too comfortable. Stay connected, educated, and ready for the unexpected.
Tired of reading self-help books to learn how to be a smart first time home buyer or how to do a DIY project? Why not step it up to the next level and discover some of the most helpful and hilarious podcasts to reach your goals?
The end of September brought not only cooler temperatures but it also brought National Podcast Day on the 30th! Are you tired of researching ways to be a better homeowner? Are your Pinterest Boards so big that you don't even know where to begin? One of the best ways to stay up to date on the latest home trends, getting tips on how to buy a home, and how to handle your first DIY project is to listen to a podcast or two. And don't worry, when it comes to the topic of being a homeowner or working on your home, the number of podcasts out there for you to enjoy is pretty long. All you'll need to do is a little research to find exactly what you want to listen to!
In honor of National Podcast Day, let's explore some of the top Podcasts for Homeowners in 2019!
Young House Love
The Money Pit
It can be stressful to be a homeowner! But use your free resources to make the journey a fun and stress-free experience. Plug in your headphones and get started!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.