HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Department of Revenue is warning Pennsylvanians of a new scam in which scammers are sending phony letters to business owners to trick them into turning over their accounting records.
According to a release, these fake letters include the Department of Revenue’s name and logo, leading owners to believe they are under investigation for failing to pay state taxes.
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“This is another example of the fact that fraudsters are working every day on scams just like this one so that they can steal from hardworking Pennsylvanians,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said “We want to do everything that we can to help educate the public so that they know how to identify scams like this one and take the appropriate steps to protect themselves.”
The goal of the scam is the make the recipient of the letter believe they are being investigated by the Department of Revenue for “an alleged violation of delinquent sales tax liability”. The letter threatens taxpayers by saying that penalties will be imposed on their accounts.
The letter also provides contact information for a “resolution officer” and urges the business owner to provide accounting records prepared by a licensed professional, which can be an attorney.
Although these fraudulent letters contain the logo and name of the department, here are some things to keep in mind about the Department of Revenue’s actual processes, as quoted in the release.
- The counterfeit notice does not include a return address. A notice from the Department of Revenue will always include an official Department of Revenue address as the return address.
- The counterfeit notice addresses the recipient as “Dear Business Owner.” When the Department of Revenue attempts to contact a business through a notice in the mail, the notice typically addresses the business owner or business name.
- The phony notice is very generic and does not include any specific information about the taxpayer’s account. Legitimate notices from the Department of Revenue will include specifics, such as an account number and any liability owed, to give the taxpayer as much information as possible. Fraudsters do not include this specific information because they are trying to cast a wide net to lure in as many victims as possible.
- The counterfeit notice is sent by the “Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Tax Investigation & Enforcement Unit” and claims the business is “under investigation by the Pennsylvania State Revenue and Cash Disbursement Unit.” While the department does conduct criminal tax investigations and tax enforcement, the units listed on the counterfeit notice are phony. Reach out to the department directly, as advised below, to determine if the “Unit” name exists.
Tips to avoid this scam include:
Ensuring you are speaking with legitimate representatives of the Department. You should also examine the notice throughout and conduct research online.
If you are concerned about a potentially fraudulent notice, please visit the department’s Verifying Contact by the Department of Revenue webpage for a verified phone number and contact information