Friday, February 13, 2015

IRS Impersonation Scams

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reporting a considerable number of phone scams being targeted towards taxpayers, including recent immigrants. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS but are not. These callers are con artists who will attempt to scare people into providing their personal information and credit/debit card numbers. Be aware that these fake callers are using spoofing technology to fool Caller ID into displaying that the call is originating from the IRS.

Victims are told that they owe money to the IRS and that their tax obligation needs to be paid promptly through a credit/debit card or a wire transfer. The fake IRS callers use fear as the main tool in obtaining what they want. Victims will be threatened with immediate arrest, account liens, seizure of homes and assets, deportations, and suspension of a business or driver's license.

Some fake callers can go the opposite route and claim that you are due a large refund and need your information so that the IRS can "make things right".

The IRS will never; (1) Call to demand immediate payment over the telephone, (2) Call about taxes owed unless they have mailed you a bill, (3) Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe, (4) Require you to use a specific means of payment for your taxes such as a credit or debit card, (5) Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the telephone, or ((6) Threaten to bring in law enforcement to arrest you for non-payment.

These fake IRS impersonation calls are growing in number. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported in an October report that IRS impersonators had made more than 90,000 fake phone calls to consumers and had acquired more than $5,000,000 in stolen funds.

Report scammers to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by phone at 1-800-366-4484 or forward suspicious e-mails to You can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission online. Contact your financial institution immediately if you have given personal account information in response to a suspicious caller or email.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Large Cash Transactions: Bank Secrecy Act

Credit union members should be aware of what the Bank Secrecy Act means to consumers and the financial transactions they make in their financial institutions. All financial institutions are required to monitor transactions that take place and report any activity that is deemed suspicious either by definition or by circumstances. Cash transactions in particular are monitored by dollar amount and by frequency. All cash transactions above $10,000 on a daily aggregate basis would be reported. It is important to note though that account holders should not purposely stagger cash deposits over several days to avoid reporting of the $10,000 cash amount threshold. The practice of staggering deposits to avoid reporting is called "structuring" and could result in being reported as a suspicious activity, which is worse than just one large currency transaction. The practice of "structuring" cash deposits to avoid reporting can be prosecuted as a crime. This is especially true if the cash transactions can be connected to money laundering, tax evasion, or criminal activities where cash is being transacted. Most financial institutions have internal systems in place to monitor cash transactions over a period of time to trigger a concern over "structuring". 

There is nothing illegal about making a large currency deposit or withdrawing a large cash sum of money. There should not be any fear by consumers in making cash transactions. The origins of the Bank Secrecy Act was to establish a system that could assist with detecting money laundering and criminal activities. Terrorism concerns with large cash transactions have developed over time. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is the federal bureau within the U.S. Treasury Department that has been charged with implementing, administering, and enforcing compliance with the laws associated with The Currency and Foreign Transactions Act of 1970, commonly called the Bank Secrecy Act. 

The Bank Secrecy Act and the laws associated with it are not a secret. They are a matter of public policy that every citizen can review on their own. The government FinCEN web site has information available for the public in understanding the Bank Secrecy Act. The web site is . 

All financial institutions are required to comply with Bank Secrecy Act regulations. Significant fines and penalties could be assessed to financial institutions that do not comply. 

Account holders are advised to be open and honest with their large cash transactions. Do not ask financial institution employees about how to avoid being reported for cash transactions because that is a sure way to get reported. The Bank Secrecy Act law requires it.