The Internal Revenue Service announced its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams with a special emphasis on aggressive and evolving schemes related to coronavirus tax relief, including Economic Impact Payments.
This year, the Dirty Dozen focuses on scams that target taxpayers. The criminals behind these bogus schemes view everyone as potentially easy prey. The IRS urges everyone to be on guard all the time and look out for others in their lives.
“Tax scams tend to rise during tax season or during times of crisis, and scam artists are using pandemic to try stealing money and information from honest taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS provides the Dirty Dozen list to help raise awareness about common scams that fraudsters use to target people. We urge people to watch out for these scams. The IRS is doing its part to protect Americans. We will relentlessly pursue criminals trying to steal your money or sensitive personal financial information.”
Taxpayers are encouraged to review the list in a special section on IRS.gov and be on the lookout for these scams throughout the year. Taxpayers should also remember that they are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. Consumers can help protect themselves by choosing a reputable tax preparer.
The IRS urges taxpayers to refrain from engaging potential scammers online or on the phone. The IRS plans to unveil a similar list of enforcement and compliance priorities this year as well.
“Americans are already experiencing so many challenges; the last thing taxpayers need is to be victimized by one of these scams,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson. “We are hoping that by raising the public’s awareness of these tax scams, fewer people will fall prey.”
An upcoming series will emphasize the illegal schemes and techniques businesses and individuals use to avoid paying their lawful tax liability. Topics will include such scams as abusive micro captives and fraudulent conservation easements.
Here are this year’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ scams:
• Phishing: Taxpayers should be alert to potential fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. IRS Criminal Investigation has seen a tremendous increase in phishing schemes utilizing emails, letters, texts, and links. These phishing schemes are using keywords such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19” and “Stimulus” in various ways.
• Fake Charities: Criminals frequently exploit natural disasters such as the current COVID-19 pandemic by setting up fake charities to steal from well-intentioned people trying to help in times of need. Fake charity scams generally rise during times like these.
• Threatening Impersonator Phone Calls: IRS impersonation scams come in many forms. A common one remains bogus threatening phone calls from a criminal claiming to be with the IRS. The scammer attempts to instill fear and urgency in the potential victim. In fact, the IRS will never threaten a taxpayer or surprise him or her with a demand for immediate payment.
• Social Media Scams: Taxpayers need to protect themselves against social media scams, which frequently use events like COVID-19 to try tricking people. Social media enables anyone to share information with anyone else on the Internet. Scammers use that information as ammunition for a wide variety of scams. These include emails where scammers impersonate someone’s family, friends, or co-workers.
• EIP or Refund Theft: The IRS has made great strides against refund fraud and theft in recent years, but they remain an ongoing threat. Criminals this year also turned their attention to stealing Economic Impact Payments as provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
• Senior Fraud: Senior citizens and those who care about them need to be on alert for tax scams targeting older Americans. The IRS recognizes the pervasiveness of fraud targeting older Americans along with the Department of Justice and FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), among others. Seniors are more likely to be targeted and victimized by scammers than other segments of society.
• Scams targeting non-English speakers: IRS impersonators and other scammers also target groups with limited English proficiency. These scams are often threatening in nature. Some scams also target those potentially receiving an Economic Impact Payment and request personal or financial information from the taxpayer. Phone scams pose a major threat to people with limited access to information, including individuals not entirely comfortable with the English language.
• Unscrupulous Return Preparers: Selecting the right return preparer is important. They are entrusted with a taxpayer’s sensitive personal data. Most tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service, but dishonest preparers pop up every filing season committing fraud, harming innocent taxpayers or talking taxpayers into doing illegal things they regret later.
• Offer in Compromise Mills: Taxpayers need to wary of misleading tax debt resolution companies that can exaggerate chances to settle tax debts for “pennies on the dollar” through an Offer in Compromise (OIC). These offers are available for taxpayers who meet very specific criteria under the law to qualify for reducing their tax bill. But unscrupulous companies oversell the program to unqualified candidates so they can collect a hefty fee from taxpayers already struggling with debt.
• Fake Payments with Repayment Demands: Criminals are always finding new ways to trick taxpayers into believing their scam including putting a bogus refund into the taxpayer’s actual bank account. The IRS will never demand payment by a specific method.
• Payroll and HR Scams: Tax professionals, employers, and taxpayers need to be on guard against phishing designed to steal Form W-2s and other tax information. These are Business Email Compromise (BEC) or Business Email Spoofing (BES). This is particularly true with many businesses closed and their employees working from home due to COVID-19.
• Ransomware: This is a growing cybercrime. Ransomware is malware targeting human and technical weaknesses to infect a potential victim’s computer, network or server. Malware is a form of invasive software that is often frequently inadvertently downloaded by the user. Once downloaded, it tracks keystrokes and other computer activity. Once infected, ransomware looks for and locks critical or sensitive data with its own encryption. In some cases, entire computer networks can be adversely impacted.
Visit www.IRS.gov/newsroom for additional information on these scams and the latest news releases from IRS.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for August 3-7, 2020
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile marker 1 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for maintenance of various bridges, Sunday through Thursday nights from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. through August 7.
No lane closures reported.
*NEW* Mile marker 0 to 7, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for sign installations at various locations, Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
*NEW* Route 658 (Rockland Road) – Flagger traffic control for soil and rock testing between Route 620 (Bennys Beach Road) and Kelley Drive, August 3-14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Vegetation management may take place district wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.
Girl of Destiny 2020 Awards – A celebration of leadership, service, and empowerment
This weekend Reaching Out Now held the Girl of Destiny Luau Awards Ceremony. The girls and their families gathered to celebrate, enjoy delicious food by Chef Devin Smith, and wish the graduating 8th graders good luck as they move into leadership roles in 9th grade! There were several tears shed when remembering how far the girls have come.
Watch this video to hear some of the kind words shared by Samantha Barber (Founder and President) and Marlena Conner (Board Member & Mentor Liaison) as they present the awards. Michelle Rutledge (Board Member & Community Outreach) shares the opening prayer and recognizes Samantha for her hard work and dedication. The video also features Kendallee Walker (Samantha Barber’s daughter) as she addresses the group regarding a “Note on Leadership”, Anne Cobb (Vice President) reads a special letter from Dr. Michelle Edwards written to the girls, and closing prayer by Judith James:
To learn more about Reaching Out Now and programs, please visit: www.reachingoutnow.org
Special thanks was given to all of the community supporters who have helped Reaching Out Now throughout the year. Extra shout-out to the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center and Rotary Club of Warren County represented by Jen Avery at the ceremony. Thank you to Royal Examiner for helping to spread the word about Reaching Out Now.
Virginia War Memorial seeks entries for 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest
The Virginia War Memorial in Richmond is seeking entries for the Virginia War Memorial 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest. The contest is open to all Virginia middle and high school age public, private and homeschooled students.
One winner will be selected from among all middle school entries (grades 6-8) and one from high school (grades 9-12) entries.
The topic for the 2020 contest is “An American Who Served in The Military During World War II Who Inspires Me.” Students can consider a member of their family, of their community, or a famous man or woman who served in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as their subject. Essays should be 500-750 words in length and utilize interviews and primary sources whenever possible.
The two students who write the winning essays will each receive a $200 gift card and each of their teachers, will earn receive a $100 gift card to purchase classroom supplies. The student winners will also be invited to come to Richmond to read aloud their essays and participate in the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial on Wednesday, November 11, 2020.
The deadline for entries for the Virginia War Memorial 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest is 11:59 p.m., Sunday, October 11, 2020. Complete information regarding the essay theme, rules, guidelines and how to enter is available online or by calling Virginia War Memorial Assistant Education Director Morgan Guyer at 804-786-2060.
About the Virginia War Memorial
The mission of the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All. Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and the Global War on Terrorism. Located at 621 South Belvidere Street in Richmond, the Virginia War Memorial is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and serves as an integral part of its mission in support of all Virginians who have served in our military. For more details, visit www.virginiawarmemorial.org or www.dvs.virginia.gov.
About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. DVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates two long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.
Valley Health extends Paycheck Protection Plan to ensure workforce stability during COVID-19 uncertainty
Valley Health System announced last week that it has extended the Paycheck Protection Plan enacted in April to provide income security to employees during a time of service disruption due to COVID-19. The protection initiative has been extended from an initial 90-day period, set to expire July 25, to remain in effect through the end of the year.
Valley Health implemented the Paycheck Protection Plan in mid-April as a pre-emptive response to significant declines in outpatient care, diagnostic testing, and elective procedures at Valley Health’s six hospitals and outpatient facilities. This reassurance to Valley Health’s employees was announced as hundreds of hospitals and health systems in the U.S. were laying off staff. Valley Health System’s Board of Trustees has authorized the use of reserve funds, if needed, to extend the Paycheck Protection Plan through 2020.
“As our health system and community were confronting COVID-19 and preparing for a potential surge of patients, we wanted our associates focused on one thing – providing safe, high-quality care and protecting their health — not worrying about their employment status or the financial impact of reduced hours,” said Valley Health President and CEO Mark Nantz. “Our initial commitment to the PPP initiative was for 90 days, and I’m proud to say that during this time, hundreds of our associates were able to maintain at least 70% of their pay and continued benefit coverage.”
The not-for-profit health system employs more than 6,000 dedicated associates, hundreds of whom benefited from the Paycheck Protection Plan after experiencing a reduction in hours due to service closures. While Valley Health’s day-to-day operations have not returned to pre-COVID normal, most full and part time associates have resumed their regular schedules, and the immediate need for the PPP has significantly decreased. But the local impact of the global pandemic has been difficult to predict.
“Acknowledging lingering uncertainty about the course of the virus in the months ahead, our leadership team and Trustees are committed to guaranteeing each associate a minimum of 70% of their regular pay should there be a reduction in hours related to COVID-19,” Nantz said. “Our priority is to remain strong and resilient, with our workforce intact, prepared to safeguard the health of our community.”
Valley Health is a not-for-profit health system serving a population of more than 500,000 in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands, and western Maryland. Valley Health includes six hospitals, more than 50 physician practices, Urgent Care centers, regional medical transport services, home health services, and outpatient rehabilitation and fitness centers in six communities. Visit www.valleyhealthlink.com.
Skyline High School Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony
On August 1, 2020, the Skyline High School Class of 2020 had their long-awaited ceremony. The ceremony was in two sections with students last name A-K at 8 am and L-Z at 10 am.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020.
Warren County Fire and Rescue Services Chief Richard Mabie announces retirement
Warren County Fire and Rescue Services Chief Richard E. Mabie announced today that he will retire effective December 31, 2020. Chief Mabie was appointed as the County’s very first Chief of Fire and Rescue Services on August 7, 1995, and has more than 50 years of public service in Virginia. Prior to joining Warren County, Chief Mabie served for 25 years in the Richmond City Fire Department with his last position held as Captain. Chief Mabie also served for 13 years as Chief of the Hanover Courthouse Volunteer Fire Company in Hanover County, Virginia.
Doug Stanley, County Administrator, stated, “Congratulations to Chief Mabie on his pending retirement. The progress that our community has made in the development of a county-wide Fire and Rescue Department is due to the hard work and dedication of Chief Mabie. During his 25+ year tenure, we have added the North Warren Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company, added staffing to provide five 24/7 stations, completed a fire and rescue study of the community, and will soon be completing the new Rivermont Fire Station. I have been most impressed over the years with his work ethic and willingness to be a hands-on chief, personally running most of the significant calls in the community during his tenure. We have been fortunate as a community to have had such a dedicated leader of our fire and rescue services.”
Chief Mabie said, “On August 1, 1995, I received the honor of becoming the first Fire Chief of the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. As I look back at the past 25 years of service to this Department and community, I take great pride in knowing what we as a Department have accomplished. I have strived to build a Department capable of serving our community with the highest level of professionalism, dedication, and service possible. This could only have been accomplished by a diverse group of career and volunteer men and women that serve this community every day, of whom I am extremely proud! I walked into my office on my first day without an organized Department. I leave 25 years later an organization that is truly dedicated to serving our community as ‘One Department’ with ‘One Mission’. We are now very respected by other public safety agencies throughout the Shenandoah Valley.”
Chief Mabie added, “No fire department leader can succeed by himself. I appreciate the support of Doug Stanley as our County Administrator, together with the support that the men and women in this department, the Fire Chiefs’ Advisory Staff, elected officials, and the community have provided me over the past 25 years.”
The Warren County Fire and Rescue Office is located at 200 Skyline Vista Drive, Suite 200, Front Royal, VA, telephone (540) 636-3830. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.