Officials Warn Businesses of Fraudulent Letter Scam

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is warning business owners of a new scam involving fraudulent letters and accounting records.

Officials say fraudsters are impersonating the department by sending phony letters with the department’s name and logo. The letters attempt to trick business owners to turn over accounting records by implying they are under investigation for “alleged violation of delinquent sales tax liability.”

“This is another example of the fact that fraudsters are working every day on scams just like this one so that they can steal from hardworking Pennsylvanians,” said Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell. “We want to do everything that we can to help educate the public so that they know how to identify scams like this one and take the appropriate steps to protect themselves.” Hassell added.

Hassell says if fraudsters gain access to accounting records, they could use account numbers and financial data to apply for loans, make unauthorized transactions, and fraudulent tax refunds.

“If you’re wondering what could happen if this sensitive information were to fall into the wrong hands, the list is unfortunately very long,” said Hassell.

He says there are several ways to tell the difference between a fraudulent letter and a legitimate one from the department.

“A notice from our department will always include an official Department of Revenue return address. The counterfeit notice addresses the recipient as ‘Dear Business Owner.’ When we attempt to contact a business through a notice in the mail, the notice typically includes the business owner’s name or the business name,” said Hassell.

According to the department, additional ways to tell if the letter is fraudulent include:

  • The phony notice is very generic and does not include any specific information about the taxpayer’s account. Legitimate notices from the Department of Revenue will include specifics, such as an account number and any liability owed, to give the taxpayer as much information as possible. Fraudsters do not include this specific information because they are trying to cast a wide net to lure in as many victims as possible.
  • 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.

If you suspect a fraudulent notice, visit the Verifying Contact by the Department of Revenue Webpage for a verified phone number and contact information.

An example of the fraudulent letters can be viewed here.


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