EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Scam artists or ‘Fraudsters are impersonating the Department of Revenue by sending fake letters to business owners, encouraging the owners to turn over all accounting records that contain important financial information.
According to officials the goal of the scam is to trick taxpayers into providing private financial information, so the criminals can use it for a number of illegitimate activities, which could seriously damage the business’ finances.
“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.
Officials say the goal of the scam is to make the recipient of the letter think the Department of Revenue is investigating them for an ‘alleged violation of delinquent sales tax liability.’ The letter also threatens the taxpayer, by telling them there will be penalties on their accounts.
Example of fraudulent letter pictured below:
Although the counterfeit letters have the department’s name and logo, they also have some suspicious and inaccurate details that can help businesses determine the difference between a real Department of Revenue notice and a counterfeit one sent by a scam artist.
Some tips to look out for are:
- The counterfeit notices do not include a return address. A real notice will always include an official from the Department of Revenue address as the return address.
- The fake notices address the recipient as ‘Dear, Business Owner,’ whereas the Department of Revenue will address the business owner or business name directly.
- The counterfeit notice is sent by the ‘Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Tax Investigation & Enforcement Unit and says the business is under investigation by the ‘PA State Revenue and Cash Disbursement Unit.’ The units listed on the counterfeit notice are fake. Reach out to the department directly, to determine if the ‘unit name’ actually exists.
- 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).
- To avoid the scam altogether, ensure you’re speaking with a legitimate representative of the department, examine the notice precisely, and conduct research online from the best source, the Department of Revenue’s website, revenue.pa.gov, to verify the information contained in the notice.
If you are concerned about a potentially fraudulent notice, please visit the department’s Verifying contact by the Department of Revenue webpage for verified phone numbers and contact information.