Protect Yourself and Your Business from the Rising Threat of Cyber Fraud by Anya Stasenko, CPA

Posted on December 21, 2018

As you ring in a New Year and prepare for the April tax filing deadline, it is critical you recognize that this season brings with it a heightened risk of identity theft and cyber fraud for which you must take necessary precautions to protect yourself, your businesses and your clients. Criminals are continuously coming up with new and more sophisticated methods to trick unsuspecting taxpayers into willingly handing over their money and/or personal information to scammers. The good news is that you can take steps to detect and prevent these scams throughout the year.

Common Scams 

Criminals are known to pose as government agencies or other trusted sources, including financial institutions, payroll services companies, accounting software providers and even taxpayer’s own employees and friends, in an attempt to get victims to pay a fictitious bill or release sensitive information. Not only do fraudsters make these communications look official and sound like they are from a legitimate source, they even go so far as to create imitation websites that are extremely difficult for victims to differentiate from the real ones.

In one common scheme, criminals pose as the IRS and either email, telephone or text taxpayers to demand payment of a phony tax liability. If taxpayers do not comply, the scammers become aggressive and threaten victims with arrest and even deportation. Similar frauds alert victims that one of their passwords are expiring or one of their accounts need to be updated. The criminal’s goal is to entice users to click on a link to a fake website that steals usernames and passwords or to open an attachment that downloads malware or tracks keystrokes on victims’ computers.

In addition, there are a number of scams in which criminals may impersonate your business’s actual employees, including payroll and human resource executives, or vendors who you know and work with on a regular basis. These phishing attempts, which appear to be legitimate, involve requests for lists of employees’ names, social security numbers and bank information and/or instructions for changing the pay to account of an employee or vendor. Unless you actually verify through telephone or face-to-face contact that the email is in fact from the purported sender, you may unwittingly send payment to an actual criminal and essential say goodbye to those dollars.

Protect Yourself and Your Business

 Identity theft and cyber fraud are very real problems that endanger individuals and businesses and their financial information. According to the IRS, there was a 60 percent increase in tax-related bogus email schemes alone in 2018.

Here are a few steps to take to protect against phishing and cyber fraud schemes in 2019:










About the Author: Anya Stasenko, CPA, is a senior manager with the Audit and Attest Services practice of Berkowitz Pollack Brandt, where she provides business consulting services, audits of financial statements and agreed upon procedures as well as pre-immigration tax planning for foreign persons and owners of foreign and domestic entities. She can be reached at the CPA firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954) 712-7000 or via email at