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Friday, 8 February 2013

The Internet is our window to the world...of scams

For isolated islanders in Bermuda, the internet is our window to the world. Upset that comfort level with interruptions in internet service, and you will incur the wrath of the individually confined along with serious businesses.
The internet amazes us. It delights us with its breathtaking scope. It communicates and fosters relationships. It draws us in to shop, spend and spend invisibly private — often, though the visions of the product are often better than the actual item.
It manages our time and our money. It provides every one of us (well those of us that are computer literate with access to the internet) with the ability to raise our persona from anonymous invisibility to globally viral, sometimes through deliberate planned exposure, and unpredictably through totally inadvertent, innocent fun such as the wedding procession dance on YouTube.
It is compellingly addictive. The growth of online gambling according to Pokersites, “is globally estimated at USD 30 billion in 2011, generated from more than 1,000 websites. See Pokersites ( informative chart comparing online gambling business growth from 2010 to 2011 in the UK and the US:
— A 32.5 percent increase in online gambling while social media only increased 4.5 percent
— Most popular internet gambling pursuits in the United States are state and federal lotteries (63 percent), followed by games at 12 percent, sports betting at ten percent, casinos at nine percent, poker at three percent and a minuscule one percent bingo participation.
— Women over fifty are the biggest internet bingo players while young professionals prefer online gaming.”
Pokersites uses sophisticated tracking systems to monitor online poker network sites.
The internet is impersonal. Those at the other end of the click aren’t always your friends. We are the ones who put a human face, emotional bonds, trust and confidence on the end of an e-mail, a website, or a Facebook posting — not really knowing but hoping that they (he or she) are good people, just like you and me.
Not really. The internet can corrupt and is corrupted by unscrupulous users.
The number of internet scams rises statistically with the number of websites, blogs, and interactive messaging. Innovative identity theft, malware creep into your computer, investment and finance fraud are rampant and persistent.
Internet Illegal crowd funding
Appearing as an old wolf in young sheep’s clothing — this new internet threat looks suspiciously like another illegal investment scheme of old — global prosperity — criminal fraud multi-level style. Unfortunate Bermudian resident investors were badly burned by that solicitation with ‘free trips” to the resort touting an imminent initial public offering (IPO). It was imminent alright only for the cash that flowed incessantly to the crooks at the top, who by the way, met some justice and jail time for money laundering and tax evasion. See
Legitimate crowdfunding explained
According to the Wikipedia, ”crowdfunding (alternately crowd financing, equity crowdfunding or hyper funding) describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organisations. Crowd funding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, start-up company funding, movie or free software development, and scientific research.”
Crowdfunding may be purely donative or commercial where small investors can also invest in business start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures (owning an equity piece of the business) through a funding portal — a website.
The sites create a variety of investment opportunities and facilitate the payment from the investor to the issuer of the equity (stock). Warning: fraudsters create websites that look and feel legal to take full advantage of investor naivety. According to the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) 2012 NASAA Top Investor Threats, crowdfunding and internet offers are at the top of the list.
NASAA is a voluntary international organisation devoted to investor protection with membership in the 50 US states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Canada, and Mexico. NASAA’s fundamental mission is protecting consumers who purchase securities or investment advice.
Phishing is a scam typically carried out by unsolicited e-mail and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. A very popular scam to steal personal identity involves the use of “supposedly” legitimate US Internal Revenue Service documents that request the taxpayer contact them immediately to resolve a tax conflict.
The scam phisher then creates false tax returns and collects large tax refunds. US Internal Revenue Service continues to warn US persons (or anyone with US connections) that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.
What to do if you receive a suspicious IRS-related communication. The IRS stresses the message that unsolicited e-mail claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Office of Professional Responsibility, a W-8BEN form, or EFTPS, should be reported to
The IRS has created an excellent helpful detailed website to combat identity theft and tax fraud here,, id=179820,00.html. Whether or not you are a US taxpayer, I encourage you to review the content.
Unknown websites and e-mail.
Never click, open or submit. Think before you click. Investigate the old fashion way: phone calls, third-party verifications and recommendations. If you can’t find them, they don’t exist except to steal from you.
And for those latching onto to crowdfunding, remember that any investment rate of return of six percent — 50 percent and beyond is too good to be true. The return appears fabulous. The risk of your loss is devastating.
Martha Harris Myron CPA PFS CFP (USA) TEP is Director of Tax Services at Patterson Partners Ltd providing integrated cross-border tax, estate, investment advisory and related strategic planning services through entities in Bermuda and the United State. She is a member of the American Citizens Abroad Professional Tax Advisory Council. For additional information, please contact or call 296 3528

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