Business owners should be on alert for new scam

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

Business owners should be on the alert for scam artists impersonating the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. 

Scammers are sending business owners fraudulent letters in the attempt to get them to turn over their accounting records, according to a department statement.

The letters make the recipient believe they are being investigated by the Department of Revenue for an “alleged violation of delinquent sales tax liability” and threaten the business owner by saying penalties will be imposed on their accounts.

The letter also includes contact information for a “Resolution Officer” and urges the business owner to provide accounting records prepared by a licensed professional. 

A copy of a letter sent by scam artists to businesses to potentially get sensitive information.

The ploy’s goal is to get sensitive financial information that the criminals behind the scheme can use for a number of criminal activities and harm the business’ financial standing, the department said. Providing such information allows scammers the opportunity to comb through sensitive information like bank account numbers and other financial data that could be used to make unauthorized transactions, request fraudulent tax refunds and even apply for loans under the business’ name.  

“This is a prime example of fraudsters impersonating a government agency as they try to convince hardworking Pennsylvanians to turn over sensitive information about their businesses,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said in a statement.

“We are urging Pennsylvania business owners to be on high alert if they receive a suspicious notice that includes the Department of Revenue name and logo. If you have any doubt at all about the legitimacy of a notice from the department, please use the contact information listed on our website, revenue.pa.gov. This is the best way to ensure you are speaking with a legitimate staff member at the Department of Revenue.” 

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Although these counterfeit notices bear the department’s name and logo, they include suspicious and inaccurate details. Some of the things to look out for include: 

  • 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 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 to determine if the unit named exists. 
  • The counterfeit notice claims that the business has not registered its “entity with the Pennsylvania Department of State and The Sales and Use Tax Division.” If you are an established business in Pennsylvania, it is likely that you already registered your business with the Pennsylvania Department of State and have registered for a sales tax license by completing the Department of Revenue’s PA Online Business Entity Registration (PA-100). 

If you have any doubt at all about the legitimacy of a notice from the department, reach out to a department representative by using the Online Customer Service Center. 

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Examine the notice for identifying information that can be verified. Look for blatant factual errors and other inconsistencies. If the notice is unexpected and demands immediate action, take a moment and verify its legitimacy. 

— Reach Anthony Maenza at amaenza@yorkdispatch.com or @atmaenza on Twitter.