Green Tax Break Syndicated Easements Face IRS Scrutiny

Jack Fisher has raised hundreds of millions of dollars pitching investors on real estate development projects that were never built. Fisher, an accountant-turned-developer, promoted projects such as the Preserve at Venice Harbor, near Hilton Head, S.C., where marketing illustrations showed houses on canals that evoked the famous Italian city. Instead of developing the land, he recruited investors to elaborate deals that provided them charitable tax deductions in return for donating easements for conservation.

The Internal Revenue Service, however, suspects the deals may amount to tax fraud. Fisher is at the center of a criminal probe related to these syndicated conservation easements, according to people familiar with the details, who requested anonymity to discuss a confidential matter. The investigation has already led to tax conspiracy charges against three accountants who worked with him.

A syndicated conservation easement gives dozens of investors in partnerships three choices: to build a specific development project; to hold on to the land and build later; or to donate an easement to a land trust or government, promising to forgo development. The third option entitles investors to charitable tax deductions, based on the appraised value of the land, that can be worth four or five times their investment.

Easements have been used—legitimately, and mostly by family partnerships and individuals like farmers—for decades as part of a federal push to preserve more than 30 million acres of land. Those aren’t the focus of an IRS crackdown. Instead, it’s going after promoters like Fisher who sell deals through brokers, accountants, lawyers, and tax preparers, and who market the projects that generate large tax deductions. The IRS has made these an enforcement priority, suing some promoters to shut them down and criminally investigating others.

California conservation lawyer Misti Schmidt says a typical syndicated easement used by wealthy investors is an “ugly tax-shelter scheme” that relies on grossly overvalued appraisals. “There’s so much money to be made, they just keep doing it,” says Schmidt, a partner at Conservation Partners.

Those appraisals are at the center of the legal fight around syndicated easements. Before an easement donation is made, an appraiser assigns it a value based on its highest and best use. That number is then used to calculate the tax deductions. The IRS often argues that those appraisals vastly inflate the development potential of a property, and that promoters use those valuations to market lucrative tax deductions.

Two of Fisher’s associates, the brothers Stein and Corey Agee, pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to promote fraudulent tax breaks and are cooperating with prosecutors. Although Fisher wasn’t charged or named in the Agee cases, he’s referred to as Promoter A in court documents, the people familiar with the details say. Documents reviewed by Bloomberg confirm Fisher’s role in the deals. Lawyers for Fisher didn’t respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

In the Stein Agee case, prosecutors say the deals were “illegal tax shelters that allowed taxpayers to buy tax deductions,” according to the charges. Appraisals were “falsely inflated,” while the conservation option was “always a foregone conclusion.” Many investors signed up after the tax year in which easements were donated, prosecutors say, even though the IRS allows deductions only in the same year a donation is made. Promoter A and others had investors backdate checks and agreements, according to the charges.

“Promoter A’s tax shelters resulted in a massive evasion of taxes,” the charges state. In all, more than 1,500 investors received $1.2 billion in fraudulent tax deductions, prosecutors said. At one point, Promoter A told Stein Agee that he met with several co-conspirators to make sure they were on the “same page” about late investments, according to the charges. Promoter A proposed that Agee could falsely suggest that backdated checks weren’t deposited because they were “lost” on someone’s desk. Lawyers for the Agees declined to comment.

Nationwide, the IRS has challenged $21 billion in tax deductions claimed for syndicated easements from 2016 to 2018, saying it’s auditing 28,000 taxpayers. Former President Donald Trump has donated several easements, including two under scrutiny by New York state authorities.

“The IRS fully supports the benefit of legitimate conservation easements around this country,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told Congress in March. “It has done tremendous things for farmers and others. Our problem is with the abusive syndicated easements.”

The IRS crackdown comes amid a battle in Congress that pits conservation groups and national appraisal organizations against promoters of syndicated easements. Conservation groups want legislation that would bar investors from claiming deductions worth more than two and a half times their initial investment. Promoters have been blocking that fix for years.

“The IRS’s current take-no-prisoners litigation strategy is also going after minor technical flaws that arise in all easements, not just syndications,” says Schmidt, the conservation lawyer. “Legitimate easements are now getting disallowed.”

Fisher, who’s in his late 60s, grew up on a small-town farm in Marshall, N.C., and still speaks in a soft Southern drawl. The son of a truck driver and homemaker, he graduated with a degree in accounting from nearby Mars Hill College in 1974 before joining the IRS. Fisher then became a certified public accountant, worked for Price Waterhouse, and joined a firm that moved him to Atlanta to work with the National Football League’s Falcons.

Later, he took a job at an accounting firm with the Agee brothers’ father, Edward Agee. “I got a lot of good experience,” Fisher testified at a trial after a real estate broker sued him, claiming the developer owed him a commission. Fisher said he met people who “could refer you to business: bankers and things like that.”

He got into development by auditing construction companies, and later began assembling his own investment deals, founding Preserve Communities about two decades ago.

Fisher was adept at raising money, says Anthony Antonino, a real estate consultant who helped with the sale of 800 acres in North Carolina for $14.75 million to entities controlled by Fisher and a wealthy investor. “Jack knows where the money’s at, and he knows how to get it,” Antonino says.

Some of Fisher’s wealthy investors were involved in equestrian events, say people familiar with the matter. His family owned a 40-acre show stable in Alpharetta, Ga., according to a 2013 story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His then-wife, Libba, and two of their children won several titles competing in elite hunter and jumper events, according to records maintained by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

He was a hands-on developer, says Mark Brooks, a civil engineer who helped Fisher build projects. “He was out there walking the roads and figuring out site lots,” Brooks says. “He was real proud when he did the developments. He felt he was doing things to help out Madison County, which was a pretty poor county.”

He also branched out to the Western U.S., buying a 1,088-acre ranch near Reno, Nev. In late 2018 a Georgia corporation Fisher formed donated an easement covering 812 acres to the North American Land Trust. Investors got $51.2 million in deductions, according to court filings. They put up $10 million, his partner told planners in Nevada’s Washoe County.

Months later, Fisher pursued permission to develop 38 homes on land not covered by the easement. He showed up at a rural advisory board meeting in July 2019 wearing a cowboy hat and flanked by ranch hands, according to a resident. When pressed, Fisher backed down.

“We have no plans to do anything with that property other than to make it part of the ranch,” Fisher said at the recorded meeting. In the face of stated opposition by planners, he withdrew his application.

The Agee brothers, whose father died in 2009, helped promote some of Fisher’s deals. At the proposed Preserve at Venice Harbor development, $179.8 million in tax deductions were claimed by the 390 investors who chose a conservation easement instead of building homes, court documents show. That was more than four times what they put in.

By 2018, less than two years after the IRS began targeting syndicated easements as tax shelters, Fisher was under investigation, the people with knowledge of the matter say. “You have to be very, very careful that these look like real estate investments as compared to, you know, basically a tax shelter,” Promoter A told an agent posing as an investor, according to the charges against Stein Agee.

Fisher continued to work with the Agees through last year, the people say. In November, Promoter A left a handwritten note for Stein Agee saying he’d been “cleaning up the books,” the charges state. About the same time, a video was uploaded to the Preserve Communities Vimeo account.

Fisher talks about his career while viewers see images of forests, mountains, and rivers, and of Fisher himself sitting on a deck, and then feeding a horse. “I hope the people who live in our communities gain a greater connection to nature, to slow down in life, to realize what’s really important,” he says. “We only have so many years here on the planet, and feeling good about what you’ve done with your life.”

— With assistance by Kaustuv Basu, Neil Weinberg, and Elise Young

By: David Voreacos

Source: Green Tax Break Syndicated Easements Face IRS Scrutiny – Bloomberg

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As COVID-19 Lockdowns Lift, Fraudsters Shift Focus

What’s the impact on digital fraud as countries ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions? We recently analyzed billions of transactions in our flagship identity proofing, risk-based authentication and fraud analytics solution suite — TransUnion TruValidate™ — and found the rate of suspected digital fraud attempts across industries rose 16.5% globally when comparing Q2 2020 and Q2 2021.1 In the US, the percentage of digital fraud attempts increased at a similar rate of 17.1% during the same time period.

As fraud attempts on businesses and consumers continue to rise, fraudsters are pivoting to target industries with growing markets. “It’s quite common for fraudsters to shift focus every few months from one industry to another,” said Shai Cohen, Senior Vice President of Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion.

For example, when looking at financial services, online fraud attempt rates had risen 149% when comparing the last four months of 2020 to the first four months of 2021. Yet, when comparing Q2 2021 to Q2 2020, the rate of suspected online financial services fraud attempts has risen at a much lower rate of 38.3% in the US (18.8% globally).

Where are fraudsters turning their efforts globally? We found gaming, and travel and leisure rose 393.0% and 155.9%, respectively when comparing the percent of suspected digital fraud in Q2 this year and last. In the US, during the same time periods, these rates rose 261.9% for gaming and 136.6% for travel and leisure.

Global Industry Year-over-Year Suspected Digital Fraud Attempt Rate Increases and Declines in Q2 2021

Industry Suspected fraud percentage change Top type of fraud
Largest percentage increases
Gaming 393.0% Gold farming
Travel & Leisure 155.9% Credit card fraud
Gambling 36.2% Policy/License agreement violations
Largest percentage declines
Logistics -32.74% Shipping fraud
Telecommunications -16.35% True identity theft
Insurance -8.33% Suspected ghost broker

Fraudsters capitalize on new opportunities as travel begins to reopen

While volumes remain lower than pre-pandemic levels, travel has seen a significant increase. The daily US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screenings for many days in April 2020 were below 100,000. However, the busiest day in April 2021 had 1,572,383 screenings, reflecting the growing number of travelers.

Cybercriminals are taking note and acting accordingly. “Fraudsters tend to seek out industries that may be seeing an immense growth in transactions. This quarter, as countries began to open more from their COVID-19 lockdowns, and travel and other leisure activities became more mainstream, fraudsters clearly made this industry a top target,” noted Cohen.

In addition to leveraging credit card fraud (the top type of digital fraud reported to TransUnion by its travel and leisure customers), fraudsters are also quickly adapting to target desperate travelers. Recently, the US State Department temporarily shut down their online booking system for all urgent passport appointments in response to a group of scammers using bots to book all available appointments and sell them for as high as $3,000 to applicants with urgent travel needs.

More than one-third of consumers say they’ve been targeted by COVID-19-related digital fraud

While travel and leisure, and gaming saw the largest increases in suspected digital fraud, 36% of consumers participating in TransUnion’s Consumer Pulse study said they’d been targeted  by a digital fraud scheme related to COVID-19 — across all industries — during Q2 2021.

Phishing was the leading type of COVID-19-related digital fraud impacting consumers in Q2 2021. Stolen credit card or fraudulent charges was the second most cited type of COVID-19-related online fraud, affecting 24% of global consumers.

Suspected Digital Fraud Attempt Rate Increasing Worldwide

For more digital fraud findings, see our entire infographic here.

“One in three people globally have been targeted by or fallen victim to digital fraud during the pandemic, placing even more pressure on businesses to ensure their customers are confident in transacting with them,” said Melissa Gaddis, Senior Director of Customer Success, Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion. “As fraudsters continue to target consumers, it’s incumbent on businesses to do all that they can to ensure their customers have an appropriate level of security to trust their transaction is safe all while having a friction-right experience to avoid shopping cart abandonment.”

How our TruValidate suite helps businesses detect and prevent fraud

TransUnion Global Fraud Solutions unite consumer and device identities to detect threats across markets while ensuring friction-right user experiences. The solutions, all part of the TransUnion TruValidate™ suite, fuse traditional data science with machine learning to provide businesses unique insights about consumer transactions, safeguarding tens of millions of transactions each day.

Source: As COVID-19 Lockdowns Lift, Fraudsters Shift Focus | TransUnion

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To Combat Billions In Unemployment Benefit Fraud, Startup SentiLink Raises $70 Million

At least in improper payments, much of it fraud, have been distributed by the Federal government since the pandemic struck in March 2020. In California alone, state officials admitted that as much as of unemployment benefits payments may have been fraudulent.

“Unemployment insurance fraud is probably the biggest fraud issue hitting banks today,” says Naftali Harris, co-founder and CEO at San Francisco’s SentiLink, which just closed a $70 million round of venture capital to expand its business of helping financial institutions detect fake and stolen identities for new account applications.

, a San Francisco-based venture firm, led the Series B round which brings SentiLink’s total capital raised to date to $85 million. Felicis, Andreessen Horowitz and NYCA also joined SentiLink’s latest capital infusion.

SentiLink plans to use the capital raised to continue to help institutions with this recent increase in fraud instances spurred by the CARES Act. They also plan to expand their fraud toolkit to prevent other types of scams, such as and, and investigate new ones.

Harris’ team has seen a huge uptick in fraud rates affecting their clients, as high as 90% among new applications, associated with the CARES Act COVID relief. Fraudsters have been using the same name, social security number or date of birth in several applications, filing in high volumes in several states.

According to Harris, his team is currently verifying around a million account openings per day, and is working with more than 100 financial institutions – due to a non-disclosure agreement Harris could not comment on which financial institutions his company serves.

The company says that beyond simply using artificial intelligence to detect fraud, they have a risk operations team that catches in real time cases of synthetic fraud – a form of identity theft in which the defrauder combines a stolen Social Security Number (SSN) and fake information to create a false identity – that would normally go unnoticed by their clients.

Harris discovered this type of fraud when he was working as a data scientist at Affirm in 2017. At the time, synthetic fraud was relatively unknown, so when he saw that crooks were creating brand new identities instead of stealing  existing ones to apply for credit, he founded SentiLink to focus on tackling this new scam. “We realized this was a really big issue and that nobody in the financial services industry was talking about it,” says Harris.

Now, criminals are creating new identities or stealing existing ones to tap into unemployment benefits. Harris says the problem is not only them stealing from the government, but uncovering the tactics they use to deposit the stolen funds.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that as a fraudster you have to be able to use the money stolen, and put it into the financial system,” Harris says.

To Harris, the biggest differentiation in SentiLink’s approach is how much it emphasizes “deep understanding of fraud and identity in our models.”

“We have a team of fraud investigators that manually review applications every day looking for fraud, and we use their insights and discoveries in our fraud models and technology,” he told TechCrunch. “This deep understanding is so important to us that every Friday the entire company spends an hour reviewing fraud cases.”

SentiLink, Harris added, focuses on “deeply” understanding fraud and identity, and then using technology to productionalize these insights.  Those discoveries include the deterioration of phone/name match data and uncovering “same name” fraud. “This deep understanding is so important that SentiLink employs a team of risk analysts whose full time job is to investigate new kinds of fraud and discover what the fraudsters are doing,” the company says.

SentiLink, like so many other startups, saw an increase in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The various government assistance programs were rife with fraud. This had a cascading effect throughout financial services, where fraudsters that had successfully stolen government money attempted to launder it into the financial system,” Harris said. “As a result we’ve been very busy, particularly with checking and savings accounts that until now have had relatively little fraud.”

genesis-3-1

The startup plans to use its new capital to build out its product suite and do some hiring. Today it has 25 employees, with five accepted offers, and expects to end the year with a headcount of 45-50.

Follow me on  or . Send me a secure .

I’m an assistant editor at Forbes covering money and markets. Before joining Forbes, I worked at NextEra Energy, Inc. developing and implementing successful media relations and public relations campaigns in the energy industry.

I graduated from Stetson University with a degree in Finance, and have a master’s degree in Journalism and International Relations from New York University, where I worked as a staff writer for Latin America News Dispatch and New York Magazine’s Bedford + Bowery.

Source: To Combat Billions In Unemployment Benefit Fraud, Startup SentiLink Raises $70 Million

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Why Wall Street Is Afraid of Government-Backed Digital Dollar

Imagine Imagine logging on to your own account with the U.S. Federal Reserve. With your laptop or phone, you could zap cash anywhere instantly. There’d be no middlemen, no fees, no waiting for deposits or payments to clear.

That vision sums up the appeal of the digital dollar, the dream of futurists and the bane of bankers. It’s not the Bitcoin bros and other cryptocurrency fans pushing the disruptive idea but America’s financial and political elite. Fed Chair Jerome Powell promises fresh research and a set of policy questions for Congress to ponder this summer. J. Christopher Giancarlo, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is rallying support through the nonprofit Digital Dollar Project, a partnership with consulting giant Accenture Plc. To perpetuate American values such as free enterprise and the rule of law, “we should modernize the dollar,” he recently told a U.S. Senate banking subcommittee.

For now the dollar remains the premier global reserve currency and preferred legal tender for international trade and financial transactions. But a new flavor of cryptocurrency could pose a threat to that dominance, which is part of the reason the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on developing prototypes for a digital-dollar platform.

Other governments, notably China’s, are ahead in digitizing their currencies. In these nations, regulators worry that the possibilities for fraud are multiplying as more individuals embrace cryptocurrency. Steven Mnuchin, former President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, said he saw no immediate need for a digital dollar. His successor, Janet Yellen, has expressed interest in studying it. Support for a virtual greenback cuts across party lines in Congress, which will have a say on whether it becomes reality.

At a hearing in June, Senators Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, signaled openness to the idea. Warren and other Democrats stressed the potential of the digital dollar to offer free services to low-income families who now pay high banking fees or are shut out of the system altogether.

Kennedy and fellow Republicans see a financial equivalent of the space race that pitted the U.S. against the Soviet Union—a battle for prestige, power, and first-mover advantage. This time the adversary is China, which announced this month that more than 10 million citizens are now eligible to participate in ongoing trials.

The strongest opposition to a virtual dollar will come from U.S. banks. They rely on $17 trillion in deposits to fund much of their core business, profiting from the difference between what they pay in interest to account holders and what they charge for loans. Banks also earn billions of dollars annually from overdraft, ATM, and account maintenance fees. By creating a digital currency, the Federal Reserve would in effect be competing with banks for customers.

In a recent blog post, Greg Baer, president of the Bank Policy Institute, which represents the industry, warned that homebuyers, businesses, and other customers would find it harder and more expensive to borrow money if the Fed were to infringe on the private sector’s historical central role in finance. “The Federal Reserve would gain extraordinary power,” wrote Baer, a former assistant treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

Some economists warn that a digital dollar could destabilize the banking system. The federal government offers bank depositors $250,0000 in insurance, a program that’s successfully prevented bank runs since the Great Depression. But in a 2008-style financial panic, depositors might with a single click pull all their savings out of banks and convert them into direct obligations of the U.S. government.

“In a crisis, this may actually make matters worse,” says Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and the author of a book on digital currencies that will be published in September. Whether a virtual dollar is even necessary remains up for debate. For large companies, cross-border interbank payments are already fast, limiting the appeal of digital currencies. Early adopters of Bitcoin may have won an investment windfall as its value soared, but its volatility makes it a poor substitute for a reliable government-backed currency such as the dollar.

Yet there’s a new kind of crypto, called stablecoin, that could pose a threat to the dollar’s dominance. Similar to the other digital currencies, it’s essentially a string of code tracked and authenticated via an online ledger. But it has a crucial difference from Bitcoin and its ilk: Its value is pegged to a sovereign currency like the dollar, so it offers stability as well as privacy.

In June 2019, Facebook Inc. announced it was developing a stablecoin called Libra ( since renamed Diem). The social media giant’s 2.85 billion active users worldwide represent a huge test market. “That was a game changer,” Prasad says. “That served as a catalyst for a lot of central banks.”

Regulators also have concerns about consumer protection. Stablecoin is only as stable as the network of private participants who manage it on the web. Should something go wrong, holders could find themselves empty-handed. That prospect places pressure on governments to come up with their own alternatives.

Although the Fed has been studying the idea of a digital dollar since at least 2017, crucial details, including what role private institutions will play, remain unresolved. In the Bahamas, the only country with a central bank digital currency, authorized financial institutions are allowed to offer e-wallets for handling sand dollars, the virtual counterpart to the Bahamian dollar.

If depositors flocked to the virtual dollar, banks would need to find another way to fund their loans. Advocates of a digital dollar float the possibility of the Fed lending to banks so they could write loans. To help banks preserve deposits, the government could also set a ceiling on how much digital currency citizens can hold. In the Bahamas the amount is capped at $8,000.

Lev Menand, an Obama administration treasury adviser, cautions against such compromises, saying the priority should be offering unfettered access to a central bank digital currency, or CBDC. Menand, who now lectures at Columbia Law School, says that because this idea would likely require the passage of legislation, Congress faces a big decision: to create “a robust CBDC or a skim milk sort of product that has been watered down as a favor to big banks.”

By: Christopher Condon

Source: Cryptocurrency: Why Wall Street Is Afraid of Government-Backed Digital Dollar – Bloomberg

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Critics:

Wall Street is warming up to the idea that the next big disruptive force on the horizon is central bank digital currencies, even though the Federal Reserve likely remains a few years away from developing its own.

Led by countries as large as China and as small as the Bahamas, digital money is drawing stronger interest as the future of an increasingly cashless society. A digital dollar would resemble cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum in some limited respects, but differ in important ways.

Rather than be a tradable asset with wildly fluctuating prices and limited use, the central bank digital currency would function more like dollars and have widespread acceptance. It also would be fully regulated and under a central authority.

Myriad questions remain before an institution as large as the Fed will wade in. But the momentum is building around the world. As the Fed and other central banks work through those logistical issues, Wall Street is growing in anticipation over what the future will hold.

“The race towards Digital Money 2.0 is on,” Citigroup said in a report. “Some have framed it as a new Space Race or Digital Currency Cold War. In our view, it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game — there’s a lot of room for the overall digital pie to grow.”

There, however, has been at least the semblance of a race, and China is perceived as taking the early lead. With the launch of a digital yuan last year, some fear that the edge China has ultimately could undermine the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Though China said that is not its objective, a Bank of America report notes that issuing digital dollars would let the U.S. currency “remain highly competitive … relative to other currencies.”

References:

The IRS Has 35 Million Tax Returns In Backlog. Here’s How To Track Your Money

The IRS is facing numerous challenges that have caused setbacks in issuing tax refunds this year. A recent National Taxpayer Advocate report confirmed that some 35 million tax returns are yet to be processed and explained the long delays. The tax agency is tasked with more than usual this time of year. Many 2020 tax returns are requiring adjustments or corrections, disbursing stimulus checks, calculating other tax credits and refunding overpayment on 2020 unemployment compensation.

And then there’s the unprecedented situation brought on by the pandemic. The IRS is taking more than the standard 21 days to send refunds — some taxpayers are waiting months. It’s hard to get live assistance by phone, as many callers wait on hold or aren’t connected due to high call volumes. So what if you need your tax money to cover debt or household expenses? How can you check the status of your money without calling the IRS?

We’ll walk you through how to see your personalized refund status online through IRS tracking tools and what to do if you’re waiting for a tax refund on unemployment benefits, as well. For more on economic relief aid, here are some ways to know if you qualify for the child tax credit payments that start next week. If you’re curious about future stimulus payments or the latest infrastructure deal, we can tell you about that, too. This story has been recently updated.

Why is there a tax refund delay this year?

Because of the pandemic, the IRS ran at restricted capacity in 2020, which put a strain on its ability to process tax returns and created a massive backlog. The combination of the shutdown, three rounds of stimulus payments, challenges with paper-filed returns and the tasks related to implementing new tax laws and credits caused a “perfect storm,” according to a National Taxpayer Advocate review of the 2021 filing season to Congress.

The IRS is open again and currently processing mail, tax returns, payments, refunds and correspondence, but limited resources continue to cause delays. Earlier in the tax season, some refunds were already taking longer than 21 days, including those that required manual processing. The IRS said it’s also taking more time for 2020 tax returns that need review, such as determining recovery rebate credit amounts for the first and second stimulus checks — or figuring earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit amounts.

Here’s a list of reasons your refund might be delayed:

  • Your tax return has errors.
  • It’s incomplete.
  • Your refund is suspected of identity theft or fraud.
  • You filed for the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • Your return needs further review.
  • Your return includes Form 8379 (PDF), injured spouse allocation — this could take up to 14 weeks to process.

If the delay is due to a necessary tax correction made to a recovery rebate credit, earned income tax or additional child tax credit claimed on your return, the IRS will send you an explanation. If there’s a problem that needs to be fixed, the IRS will first try to proceed without contacting you. However, if it needs any more information, it will write you a letter.

How can you track the status of your refund online?

To check the status of your income tax refund using the IRS tracker tools, you’ll need to give some information: your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status — single, married or head of household — and your refund amount in whole dollars, which you can find on your tax return. Also, make sure it’s been at least 24 hours (or up to four weeks if you mailed your return) before you start tracking your refund.

Using the IRS tool Where’s My Refund, go to the Get Refund Status page, enter your SSN or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount, then press Submit. If you entered your information correctly, you’ll be taken to a page that shows your refund status. If not, you may be asked to verify your personal tax data and try again. If all the information looks correct, you’ll need to enter the date you filed your taxes, along with whether you filed electronically or on paper.

The IRS also has a mobile app called IRS2Go that checks your tax refund status. The IRS updates the data in this tool overnight, so if you don’t see a status change after 24 hours or more, check back the following day. Once your return and refund are approved, you’ll receive a personalized date to expect your money.

Where’s My Refund has information on the most recent tax refund that the IRS has on file within the past two years, so if you’re looking for return information from previous years you’ll need to contact the IRS for further help.

How can you check the status of unemployment tax refunds online?

Taxpayers who collected unemployment benefits in 2020 and filed their tax returns early have started to receive additional tax refunds from the IRS. Under new rules from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, millions of people who treated their unemployment compensation as income are eligible for a tax break and could get a hefty sum of money back.

However, it’s not easy to track the status of that refund using the online tools above. To find out when the IRS processed your refund and for how much, we recommend locating your tax transcript by logging in to your account and viewing the transactions listed there. We explain how to do that step-by-step.

What is the wait time for a standard tax refund?

The IRS usually issues tax refunds within three weeks, but some taxpayers have been waiting months to receive their payments. If there are any errors, or if you filed a claim for an earned income tax credit or the child tax credit, the wait could be pretty lengthy. If there is an issue holding up your return, the resolution “depends on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return,” according to its website.

The date you get your tax refund also depends on how you filed your return. For example, with refunds going into your bank account via direct deposit, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post the money to your account. This means if it took the IRS the full 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you could be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. If you submitted your tax return by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks for your tax refund to arrive.

What do the IRS tax refund status messages mean?

Both IRS tools (online and mobile app) will show you one of three messages to explain your tax return status.

  • Received: The IRS now has your tax return and is working to process it.
  • Approved: The IRS has processed your return and confirmed the amount of your refund, if you’re owed one.
  • Sent: Your refund is now on its way to your bank via direct deposit or as a paper check sent to your mailbox. (Here’s how to change the address on file if you moved.)

What does an IRS TREAS 310 deposit mean?

If you receive your tax refund by direct deposit, you may see IRS TREAS 310 for the transaction. The 310 identifies the transaction as an IRS tax refund. This would also apply to the case of those receiving an automatic adjustment on their tax return or a refund due to new legislation on tax-free unemployment benefits. You may also see TAX REF in the description field for a refund.

If you see a 449 instead, it means your refund has been offset for delinquent debt.

What is the IRS phone number to check on a tax refund?

The IRS received 167 million calls this tax season, which is four times the number of calls in 2019. And based on the recent report, only seven percent of calls reached a telephone agent for help. While you could try calling the IRS to check your status, the agency’s live phone assistance is extremely limited right now because the IRS says it’s working hard to get through the backlog. You shouldn’t file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return.

Even though the chances of getting live assistance are slim, the IRS says you should only call if it’s been 21 days or more since you filed your taxes online, or if the Where’s My Refund tool tells you to contact the IRS. Here’s the number to call: 800-829-1040.

Why will a refund come by mail instead of direct deposit?

There are a couple of reasons that your refund would be mailed to you. Your money can only be electronically deposited into a bank account with your name, your spouse’s name or a joint account. If that’s not the reason, you may be getting multiple refund checks, and the IRS can only direct deposit up to three refunds to one account. Additional refunds must be mailed. Lastly, your bank may reject the deposit and this would be the IRS’ next best way to refund your money quickly.

For more information about your 2020 taxes, here’s the latest on federal unemployment benefits on your taxes and everything to know about the third stimulus check.

Katie Teague headshot

 

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Source: The IRS has 35 million tax returns in backlog. Here’s how to track your money – CNET

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Critics:

Tax returns in the United States are reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or with the state or local tax collection agency (California Franchise Tax Board, for example) containing information used to calculate income tax or other taxes. Tax returns are generally prepared using forms prescribed by the IRS or other applicable taxing authority.

Under the Internal Revenue Code returns can be classified as either tax returns or information returns, although the term “tax return” is sometimes used to describe both kinds of returns in a broad sense. Tax returns, in the more narrow sense, are reports of tax liabilities and payments, often including financial information used to compute the tax. A very common federal tax form is IRS Form 1040.

A tax return provides information so that the taxation authority can check on the taxpayer’s calculations, or can determine the amount of tax owed if the taxpayer is not required to calculate that amount. In contrast, an information return is a declaration by some person, such as a third party, providing economic information about one or more potential taxpayers.

References:

5 Surefire Ways To Lessen Risks In Dropshipping

Compared with other ecommerce models, dropshipping is probably the one with the least number of risks. Its low startup cost requirement makes it viable even for beginner entrepreneurs. Plus, having suppliers take care of warehousing and product fulfillment removes a significant amount of work and expenses that would otherwise be coming from your end as a store owner.

But despite its many advantages, dropshipping also has its share of risks. These include risks from ecommerce platforms, suppliers, fraudulent customers and even poor .

Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the losses that I and many other dropshippers have been through. Proactiveness is always key to avoiding full-blown, expensive losses.

Here are some actionable tips you can follow as early as now:

1. Use multiple sales channels

Platforms like , and are no doubt great places to set up an online store. But just like how you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, neither should you rely on a single sales channel — especially one that you don’t own.

Companies like Amazon and Facebook can change their policies, algorithms and advertising fees at any time. And what will you do if the changes suddenly put sellers like you at a disadvantage?

I always recommend setting up your own website, because that gives you more control and removes the need to be dependent on unpredictable platforms. Once your store is up, you can then explore selling on other places while maintaining your website as your main channel.

Bonus: there are many integration tools out there that can sync your site with social media channels and marketplaces like Amazon and .

2. Set criteria for vetting products and suppliers

Product and supplier issues are common among dropshippers. However, these are also avoidable if you have the proper vetting process and criteria in place.

You’ll never run out of potential products and suppliers, so the real challenge is to filter out those that could put your business at risk and find that who will help you win.

To guide you, here are some of my recommended criteria for choosing dropship products:

  • There’s an existing need or demand for the product.
  • The product is lightweight but durable enough to be shipped to various places.
  • It isn’t widely available in physical stores.
  • It isn’t sold by big brands that are hard to compete with.
  • It has interesting features that you could highlight in ads.

Meanwhile, here are some things you should look for in dropship suppliers:

  • They must be a manufacturer or wholesaler.
  • They have lots of positive reviews and a considerably high seller rating.
  • They have various shipping options, ideally including ePacket.
  • They’re willing to send you sample orders.
  • They don’t impose a minimum order requirement.
  • They have plausible policies for returns and refunds.
  • They communicate well.

3. Develop supplier contracts and store policies

A might not be a necessity if you’re just starting out with dropshipping, but it will become a must once your store gains traction. After all, you wouldn’t want to scale your business without first making sure that you and your suppliers are on the same page. This is especially important for niche stores establishing a name for very specific products.

A contract will protect you and your supplier. Here are some points that a supplier contract should cover:

  • Service level agreements (SLAs), such as shipping times and acceptable and unacceptable levels of service.
  • It should specify the agreed wholesale price of goods, if possible.
  • It should set rules for returns, refunds, chargebacks and handling .
  • It should set systems and/or sanctions for handling breach of contract.

Additionally, your supplier contracts should be your basis for creating your store’s policies, especially the return and refund policy. A good store policy helps boost customers’ trust, but you and your supplier should be able to back it up whenever the need arises.

Related:

4. Have primary and backup suppliers

Imagine receiving tons of orders only to realize later that your supplier doesn’t have enough inventory. Not only will you disappoint many customers, but these people might never buy from you again.

You can avoid running out of inventory by having backup suppliers, especially for your best-selling goods. Some ecommerce platforms actually let you assign multiple suppliers for a single product, so take advantage of that and always have backups in place.

Of course, you should make sure that your backup suppliers offer the same product quality as your primary suppliers. Vet them the same way you would a primary supplier.

5. Create a system for fraud detection and order screening

Fraudulent orders are one of the biggest risks that ecommerce businesses face. Some of these orders come in the form of an unusually big one-time purchase or a series of small purchases using the same . However, they’ll later prove to be a scam that will leave you with chargeback notices, delivered orders that you most probably won’t get back and chargeback fees that will be a hassle to dispute.

Fraudulent orders are generally detectable with the right systems in place, so it’s best if you invest in these systems early on to prevent big losses. For one, you should use a platform that complies with PCI DSS, or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

Secondly, you should set up verification methods for card-not-present (CNP) transactions. So instead of immediately approving CNP orders, you could ask customers to first verify the address registered to their issuing bank. You could also use AVS or Address Verification Services, which should do the verification process for you.

Some ecommerce platforms could also help with analyzing orders and diagnosing details that could signal a red flag. Shopify’s fraud analysis is a good example. It automatically analyzes orders and shows you those that you might want to check manually. And if you find a transaction suspicious even after manual verification, then you might choose to cancel the order instead of risking getting scammed.

You don’t have to lose big to win big. You already know the common risks in running a dropshipping business, so it’s only wise to address them early on and protect yourself against hard-to-predict changes, low-quality products, scammy suppliers, insufficient inventory, fraudulent transactions and all other dangers you may face.

Use the above-mentioned tips as your guide, and remember that your dropship store is just like any other business: It requires proper management, including risk management.

Steve Tan
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Source: 5 Surefire Ways to Lessen Risks in Dropshipping

Related:

7 Low-Risk Businesses You Can Start Tomorrow

6 Quick Ways To Make Money Without Spending A Dime

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Dropshipping Business

10 Dropshipping Risks to Consider Before Starting Your Store

How Your Credit Card Information Is Stolen and What to Do About It

Your credit card information can be stolen right under your nose without the actual card leaving your possession. Unfortunately, most victims of this type of credit card theft don’t what’s happening until after their credit card account information has already been used. Often, fraudulent credit card charges are the first sign that credit card information has been stolen. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to clear your name and get your credit card accounts under control.

How Thieves Steal Credit Card Information

In many instances, thieves don’t steal your credit card information directly from you. Instead, they get it somewhere else in the credit card processing chain.

Hacking Into Other Businesses

Thieves can steal your information by breaching a company where you’ve used your credit card or a company that handles some aspect of credit card processing. Since data breaches target entire organizations, sometimes millions of consumers have their credit card information stolen, as was the case in the Equifax data breach of 2017.2

Skimming

A credit card skimmer is a small device that captures your credit card information in another otherwise legitimate transaction. Thieves secretly place credit card skimmers over the credit card swipe at gas stations and ATMs and retrieve the information captured.

Installing Malware or Viruses

Hackers can design software that’s downloaded in email attachments or other software and sits on your computer, tablet, or smartphone undetected. In one instance, hackers take advantage of public Wi-Fi to trick people into installing malware disguised as a software update. The software monitors your keystrokes or takes screenshots of your page and sends the activity to the thief

Phishing Scams

Thieves set up traps to trick consumers into giving up credit card information. They do this by phone, by email, through fake websites, and sometimes even via text message. In one scam, for example, you may verify some personal information in a call that you think is from your credit card issuer’s fraud department, but it’s really from a scammer. It’s important that you only give out your credit card and other personal information only in transactions you can be sure are safe.6

Dumpster Diving

Throwing away documents or receipts that have your full credit card number printed puts you at risk of theft. Always shred these documents before tossing them in the trash. Unfortunately, you can’t control how businesses dispose of their records. If they fail to shred records that contain credit card information, the information is at risk of being stolen.

What Thieves Do With Your Credit Card Information

If a thief gets access to your credit card information, they can profit from it in a few different ways. All of them can make life more difficult for you. Thieves can use your credit card information to buy things over the internet. It’s much easier for them to do this if they also have your billing zip code and the security code from the back of your credit card.

Thieves may also sell your credit card information on the dark web—and the more information they have, the more it’s worth. For example, it may be sold for a higher price if the thief also has your name, address, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, and three-digit security code from your credit card.8

Thieves can also make legitimate-looking credit cards by programming your credit card information on a gift card or prepaid credit card. When the card is swiped, the transaction processes just like it would if you swiped your actual credit card.9

How to Know If Your Credit Card Information Has Been Stolen

This kind of credit card theft can go undetected for several months. It’s not like a physical credit card that you notice is missing. You likely won’t know until you notice unauthorized charges on your credit card account.

Don’t count on your bank to catch instances of credit card theft. Your credit card issuer may call you or freeze your account if they notice purchases outside your normal spending habits, but don’t take for granted that your bank will always notify you of potential fraud.

Monitor your credit card often and immediately report fraudulent purchases, regardless of the amount. It’s not enough to read through your transactions once a month when your credit card statement comes. Once a week is better, and daily or every other day will let you spot fraudulent purchases before the thief can do too much damage to your account. Some credit cards can send real-time transaction notifications to your smartphone.

Also pay attention to news regarding hacks and data breaches. News reports will often include the name of the store affected and the date or date range the data beach occurred. If you shopped during that time period, there’s a chance your credit card information was stolen.

What to Do If Your Credit Card Information is Stolen

It’s easy to know when your actual credit card has been stolen because your credit card is actually gone. It’s not as easy to know when your credit card information has been stolen. Often, you only notice signs that hint your credit card information has been stolen, like unauthorized purchases on your credit card.1

If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft of any kind, including having your credit card information stolen, then you can visit IdentityTheft.gov. The website, which was created by the Federal Trade Commission, will walk you through the steps you need to take to report it and recover.

Review your recent credit card transactions to see if there are any you didn’t make. Note the fraudulent charges you found. Even if you didn’t find any fraudulent charges, call your credit card issuer and let them know you think your credit card information has been stolen. Let your card issuer know of any transactions on your account that you didn’t authorize.

You have protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act if your credit information is stolen. You’re not liable for any unauthorized charges so long as you report the loss before your credit card is used. You must report the transactions to your credit card issuer so they can investigate and remove them from your account.

The credit card issuer will cancel your old credit card account, remove the fraudulent transactions from your account, and send a new credit card and a new credit card number. Continue monitoring the transactions on your new credit card. Also shred any documents with your credit card information on them. As soon as you start using your credit card, the details are at risk of being stolen.

Keeping Your Credit Card Information Safe

If you use your credit card at all, anywhere, your information is at risk. Still, there are a number of things you can do to keep your credit card information safe. That includes using strong passwords, being cautious about where you use your credit card, always using secure websites, and avoiding storing your credit card details in your web browser.13

By LaToya Irby

More Contents:

Santander Salvages Wirecard’s Technology

Spanish-owned bank Santander has acquired the technology assets from disgraced payments firm Wirecard – but it’s not taking on legal liability for the collapsed business.

Wirecard caused enormous financial turmoil in the summer when an accountancy fraud led to the swift collapse of the firm. The knock-on effects saw millions of banking customers across Europe unable to access their money for days, as Wirecard provided payment processing for companies such as Pockit, Payoneer and many others.

Wirecard filed for insolvency in June after the accounting scandal came to light, and now the administrators have announced that Santander will pick up “several highly specialized technological assets” from the defunct company, as well as around 500 of Wirecard’s staff.

The technology and the staff will be subsumed into Santander’s Getnet business, which provides a range of payment and e-commerce solutions.

Santander is keen to stress that the deal does not leave the bank liable for Wirecard’s past misdemeanors. “The acquisition does not include Wirecard companies and Santander will not assume any legal liability relating to Wirecard AG and Wirecard Bank AG or its past actions,” Santander’s statement states.

The Wirecard Wreckage

The disposal of the technology to Santander may at least provide some small return for investors who lost their money in the Wirecard collapse. The deal is reported to be worth €100 million. However, Wirecard collapsed with €3.2 billion of debt on its books, which makes the technology proceeds a mere drop in the ocean. MORE FOR YOUCovid Vaccines Face Delays Due To Data-Spoiling HackersNaim Challenges The BBC With New And Higher-Quality Radio StationsWhy The New Macs Are So Short Of Memory

Wirecard’s creditors are expected to find out more details of the winding-down process this week, with the administrators having to deal with dozens of lawsuits from investors.

It was the suspension of Wirecard’s U.K. subsidiary, Wirecard Card Solutions (WCS), that prompted the banking crisis in the summer. The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) suspended activity at WCS for several days until it was reassured customers’ money wasn’t being transferred out of the business, leaving millions of banking customers unable to access their funds.

WCS has since sold many of its card technology and other assets to Railsbank, although many of the banking services that previously used Wirecard have since moved to alternate payment providers or have set up such services themselves.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website

Barry Collins

Barry Collins

I have been a technology writer and editor for more than 20 years. I was assistant editor of The Sunday Times’ technology section, editor of PC Pro magazine and have written for more than a dozen different publications and websites over the years. I’ve also appeared as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten. Hit me up if you’ve got a tech story that needs breaking at barry@mediabc.co.uk.

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Wirecard

By installing the ePOS App on a mobile device, you can handle all types of payments quickly and easily – from popular credit cards such as Visa or Mastercard, to cash or even alternative payment methods such as WeChat Pay and Alipay. Download it directly from the following link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/de… Wirecard’s ePOS SDK for iOS and Android: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmxdg… Visit us: https://www.wirecard.com/ Join us on social: Twitter: https://twitter.com/wirecard LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wire… Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wirecardgroup/

IRS & Global Tax Enforcers Expand War on Cryptocurrency Fraud

Tax authorities, both domestic and abroad, have been continuously building an arsenal of tools and experts to monitor and audit crypto transactions. This increased weaponry has led to a growing number of international arrests by the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement (J5) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ), with each member organization arresting individuals allegedly involved in crypto fraud, and/or seizing funds from their activities.

Not surprisingly, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is keeping pace with these efforts and closing in on those who may have attempted to take advantage of the perceived anonymity of these transactions to evade taxes. As these tax authorities continue their collective efforts, the question becomes: who will be the next target of this expanding arsenal?

Crypto tracing for hire

Public records reveal that the IRS and other federal agencies have recently entered into agreements with a number of private cryptocurrency analytics companies to gain access to certain blockchain tracing software. This is unsurprising, given the US government’s recent outreach to members of the cryptocurrency community. For example, the IRS recently sought assistance from several cryptocurrency tax software companies for the audits of tax returns involving on-chain and off-chain cryptocurrency transactions.1

The statements of work for these arrangements provide that the IRS “is engaging outside contractors to assist our revenue agents in calculating taxpayers’ gains or losses as a result of their transactions involving virtual currency.” The DOJ is also advertising positions for crypto experts to assist law enforcement with “undercover operations on the Dark Web and undercover cryptocurrency transactions, technical skills and technology to perform block-chain analysis to trace transactions.”2

The IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS CI), the largest federal law enforcement agency in the US Department of Treasury, is also expanding its crypto capabilities. As part of its Cryptocurrency Initiative, IRS CI recently issued a public request for tools related to cryptocurrency, including applications “to more easily trace privacy coins and other protocols that provide anonymity to illicit actors.” This coordinated effort by the IRS and other federal agencies to acquire crypto talent forecasts a looming crackdown on the use of virtual currency for illicit purposes, and those that facilitate its use for those purposes.

International enforcement: Pooling of resources

The global tax community has also pooled its resources to target crypto fraudsters. The J5, which consists of the leaders of the tax enforcement agencies in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, England, and the United States, was formed to investigate and combat cross-border tax and money laundering threats, including cybercrime, cryptocurrency, and enablers of global tax crimes. This has led to the J5 making several recent arrests involving certain cryptocurrency transactions. One of the J5’s stated missions is to “collaborate internationally to reduce the growing threat to tax administrations posed by cryptocurrencies and cybercrime and to make the most of data and technology.”

The J5 has held annual events known as “Challenges,” where investigators, cryptocurrency experts, and data scientists from the member nations exchange data and techniques. These combined efforts have led to an uptick in enforcement activity by member nations, including:

Two men were arrested in February 2020 in the Netherlands on suspicion of money laundering using cryptocurrencies via the subject crypto service provider. This arrest was the apparent culmination of the Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigation Service’s investigation of a crypto service provider discussed during the 2019 Challenge. The amount laundered was approximately US$118,800, indicating that the J5’s targets are not limited to the million-dollar players.

A Romanian programmer in Germany was arrested and pleaded guilty in July 2020, for conspiring to commit wire fraud and offering and selling unregistered securities. The activity is connected with the programmer’s role in a cryptocurrency mining scheme that defrauded investors of at least US$722 million worth of bitcoin.

The DOJ has also continued its enforcement efforts in earnest. Just last month, the DOJ:

  • Announced the seizure of millions of dollars in bitcoin associated with financing of terrorist organizations, including al-Qassam Brigades, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). The operation involved, among other things, an investigation into certain alleged Syrian charities and also led to the unsealing of criminal charges for two Turkish individuals. Acting United States Attorney Michael R. Sherwin commented that this seizure, the largest of its kind, “reflect[s] the resolve . . . to target and dismantle these sophisticated cyber-terrorism and money laundering actors across the globe. While these individuals believe they operate anonymously in the digital space, we have the skill and resolve to find, fix and prosecute these actors under the full extent of the law.”
  • Filed a civil forfeiture complaint related to two hacks of virtual currency exchanges by North Korean actors. The complaint alleges that these North Korean players stole millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency and then laundered the same through Chinese over-the-counter crypto traders. Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division proclaimed, “Today’s action publicly exposes the ongoing connections between North Korea’s cyber-hacking program and a Chinese cryptocurrency money laundering network.”
  • The first hack dates back to July 2019 when an agent tied to North Korea allegedly stole over US$272,000 worth of crypto. This agent then engaged in “chain hopping,” a process whereby the user converts cryptocurrency into other forms of crypto in order to make the illegal transactions more difficult to trace. Then, in September 2019, another agent with ties to North Korea hacked a US-based company, stealing nearly US$2.5 million in crypto.

Avoiding the land mines and risks: The time to act is now

The message is ominous. The recent J5 activity and the US government’s stockpiling of crypto experts and tracing software leaves little doubt that tax enforcement efforts in the crypto space is ramping up. Indeed, in its February 18, 2020, newsletter, the J5 warned that “it cannot be ruled out that more international investigations by the J5 countries will follow” from the data sharing at the Challenges.

At home, the DOJ, IRS, and IRS CI remain laser focused on abusive crypto schemes, as evidenced by their call to arms for crypto experts and tracing software. While the above DOJ actions focus on anti-money laundering activity, they demonstrate a growing familiarity with these systems which will lead to future cases in other areas, including tax evasion.

Thus, any company operating in this high-risk industry should consider whether its compliance measures are adequate to protect its systems from being used, purposefully or not, to further activity that may become the focus of the government’s increasing scrutiny in this space. This is especially so in light of the DOJ’s updated guidance for corporate compliance programs places greater emphasis on continuous data driven compliance programs that are responsive to industry risks.


Footnotes

1 Hamza Ali and Allyson Versprille, IRS Seeking Private Companies to Aid With Cryptocurrency Audits, Bloomberg Law: Tax 2 Dark Web and Cryptocurrency International Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Attorney Advisor

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Is It Possible To Recover Funds From Trading & Investment Frauds

Investors of certain markets have had a hard time this year due to the COVID 19 pandemic. This year global economies have experienced a heavy recession. And if that is not bad enough, investment scammers are still stealing from innocent people. Trading and investment scams evolve every day. Nowadays they have become so sleek, you don’t know you have been robbed until it is too late. Fund recovery after such scams is a hard and long process, but it can be done.

Trade and investment scams are cleverly orchestrated schemes to rob innocent people. They convince people to part with their money with fake promises of high returns. They prey on people who want to get returns on investments fast.

Nowadays they impersonate genuine investment traders and convince people to invest. They may even make one payment to trap you into investing more money, only for you to suffer devastating losses.

Some of the Notorious Investment Scams

The common characteristic of investment scams is that they promise low-risk investments with high returns. They come in different languages but the premise is the same. For instance, an advance fee scheme persuades you to give a small amount for triple returns. You may feel that you are giving just a small amount, but if they trick millions of people, they make a lot of money. They come up with “boiler room” offices to convince you that they are professionals. Once you lose your money, you cannot trace them.

Some scammers pitch “exempt securities” and sell you on a fake exclusivity narrative. They convince you of how lucky you are to be the first one to know of these securities. Later you realize that you paid for non-existent securities. 

Forex scams are also on the rise. Some forex trading is legal. But scammers have come up with clever ways to mint money out of innocent traders. They convince you to open ghost accounts with promises of big returns. Once you make your deposits that is the end of the road for you.

Other scams include offshore investment, pension scams, and Ponzi scams. You send your money or offshore investments in the name of lowering your taxes and you lose it all. Ponzi scams promise quick cash in a short time. You may also fall victim to pump and dump schemes that lead you to buy worthless stocks. 

How Can You Spot a Scam?

You have to be very careful about money nowadays. Trade and investment scammers come up with clever ways to deceive victims every day. Some of these scams look legit and before you know it, millions of people lose their money. However, here are the obvious signs that you can look out for in these scams.

  • They offer very high returns with very low risks.
  • They promise you hot insider secrets and information
  • They give you pressure to make decisions instantly. They convince you that you are running out of time.
  • The sellers are not legally registered to trade stocks or investments. Some of them can convince you with fake documentation. Always do your background research.
  • They keep sending you spam messages on social media and your email address.
  • Pension schemes target senior citizens and coerce them to disclose personal information about their pension plans.
  • They are relentless with unsolicited advice. They barely let you breathe. A genuine company lets you breathe and make a sound decision.

Why Do People Fall Victim to These Scammers?

Surprisingly, more people fall into these scams every year. There are many reasons why someone may fall victim to these scams. Some of them are very crafty in the way they market themselves. They forge legitimate documents and convince people that they are legit. They use very inviting language and narratives to attract the masses. They use false advertisements and stories to convince you that others have had successful investment returns. They offer the lowest risk and the highest returns.

The rate of unemployment and poverty is on the rise. Simple psychological manipulation can cause a person to fall victim to these scams. They promise quick riches to people who are struggling and they believe them. They ask for something small at first, so people oblige.

Can People Recover Their Money From a Scammer?

Investment fraud causes disorientation, stress, and worse, financial distress. Funds recovery is a long and hard process, but it can be a success. Victims should report the scammers to anti-fraud government authorities. You can also contact your bank immediately to reverse transactions. If it’s not too late you can get your money back. Collect as much evidence as possible and file a funds recovery police case.

If you can get a hold of the scammers, you can file a class act as a group and go to court. If you are not a part of a group scam, get an investment lawyer, and file a single case. You can also use a fund recovery company that specializes in asset recovery. They conduct a detailed investigation with legal help and they often recover money lost to scammers.

Binary options continue to be a highly-debated subject among retail traders and even though some might argue that some brokers focusing on these assets have a long track-record in providing reliable services, in reality, the whole binary options industry favors the appearance of scammers.

Letting aside the fact that trading these instruments comes with a high risk of loss, there are plenty of other reasons that this is a “heaven for scammers” and in this article we will like to have more focus on the matter.

Binary options favor the “house”

If we think about how binary options work, the trader is always on the weaker side. Most of the binary options brokers offer around 80% payout rate and that has many implications on the probability to generate returns in the long run.

To be more specific, let’s say to buy a binary option with $10 and assume the price will be above the strike price at the expiration (call option). If you are right, then you will make $8 in profit. However, if you are wrong, you will lose all $10, which puts you in a position to have a high win rate over any given period, to be a profitable trader.

If we combine this disadvantage with the ability to manipulate prices on the platform (this will be discussed in one of the following sections), traders are faced with guaranteed losses, rather than profits, when dealing with a binary options scam broker. A lot has changed in terms of regulation for these companies and because of that, now we have most of them operating offshore.

Binary options brokers generally operate offshore

Since 2018, European regulators made a historic decision to reshape the regulation for retail online trading. As a result, there are tighter restrictions for traders with little experience and at the same time, binary options are prohibited for retail traders. This had been a major hit for brokers, which are now operating offshore.

This creates an even bigger problem, considering they can now operate free from any regulatory requirements, and even target customers based in areas where binary options trading is no longer allowed. As with any other broker type, operating via an offshore entity should be a major warning flag, signaling a binary options scam or a Bitcoin fraud.

There’s a long list of scams related to binary options, and more than 90% of them were operating via offshore companies. As a result, traders that still want to trade these instruments, despite acknowledging the high risk associated, should avoid these entities and instead look for brands that have a long track record in providing reliable services.

Marketing exaggerated returns

Like most of the fraudulent companies, a binary options scam will use aggressive social media advertising to reach inexperienced people and promise exaggerated returns. This is a typical practice and works many times because financial strains are pushing some to take drastic measures and embark on avenues that could generate returns fast.

Unfortunately, a binary options broker can’t ensure or talk about the level of profitability you’ll be having. That will be depending on the market’s performance, your expertise in the world of trading, as well as the effectiveness of your trading strategy. The broker is a simple intermediary that creates a link between you and the market via trading software.

When dealing with a binary options broker promising you will make a lot of money, the best thing to do is walk away as fast as possible. It can be a company operating not on behalf of customers, but one that wants to set up a trading or bitcoin scam.

Accurate pricing on the binary options platforms?

Another important aspect to consider has to do with how the prices displayed on the platform are calculated. A binary options scam can be easily spotted by simply reading its terms & conditions. These companies are using a method that implies averaging the pricing from multiple liquidity providers. As a result, the prices you see on the platform are not the actual market valuations, but averages calculated by the broker.

Considering binary options trading is generally short-term and even a pip can make the difference between profit and loss, it would be important to have the most accurate pricing.A bitcoin scam hide behind this price adjustment technique that generally results in massive losses for clients in the long run.

Many binary options brokers turned out to be scams

After taking an in-depth look online, we’ve noticed that there are plenty of blacklists with binary options scam. Only a few companies are still labeled as not scam, which means that most were eventually flagged as “not to be trusted”. For someone looking now for a binary options broker, this fact should be raising doubts, even on those companies that are still out there providing their services.

Keep in mind that most binary options brokers have affiliated programs and some positive online reviews may be coming from individuals that are affiliates and are generating income based on each new customer they bring in. As a result, even reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. The ultimate goal should be to avoid being trapped in a binary options scam and any Bitcoin fraud. By considering all the relevant data we’ve highlighted today, we think that’s possible.

Final Words

We can conclude that binary options trading comes with high risks and the whole industry is designed in such a way that scammers can thrive. If you want to trade these instruments, despite all the downsides, it would be important to do in-depth research and find out a company that has been operating for a long time and gets reliable positive feedback from customers. So many binary options scams had been uncovered during the past few years and this should raise serious questions about the interests of these brands. Finding the best binary options broker is a very complex process and will require you to not make any concessions.

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