FRANKFORT -- Attorney General Andy Beshear is warning business owners to be wary of websites that charge for services that are provided for free by the Internal Revenue Service.
Beshear said an aspiring Kentucky business owner has reported a suspicious website, which mimics IRS.gov, but advertises services to help business owners obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for a $250 to $300 fee, when it is free through IRS.gov.
Beshear said these types of websites are typically a guise to steal money and personal information from those starting a business, which can lead to tax fraud.
"Protecting our hard working families from con artists is one of my top priorities," said Beshear. "Losing even a few hundred dollars to a scammer can be detrimental to a new business, and the most cost-effective way we can protect business owners is to make sure they know how to avoid scams in the first place."
According to the IRS website, the EIN, also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is used to identify a business entity. The EIN can be applied for in various ways, including online. The IRS stresses on their website that the EIN is free, and those who apply receive their number immediately.
In addition, to the fee to obtain an EIN, lookalike websites collect personal information, including the victim's Social Security number. With this information, scammers can fraudulently attempt to open business bank accounts, acquire business loans and credit accounts and even try to file state and federal taxes.
Beshear said there are many variations of these types of IRS scams, which target both new and current business owners.
Beshear's Office of Consumer Protection recommends following the identity protection steps on the IRS website to avoid falling victim.
• Follow instructions provided on the official IRS.gov website.
• Do not fall for an email, social media post or phone call purporting to be from the IRS, or a website that does not begin with www.irs.gov. The IRS does not originate contact with taxpayers by email or social media to request personal or financial information. Forward any scam communication or website to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Be careful about sharing your Social Security or EIN number and only provide them when you initiate contact, or after you have verified the person or organization.
• Protect your computer by using security software, firewalls and keep security patches and passwords up to date.
Beshear said his office is fighting to stop con artists and asking Kentuckians to report scams and identity theft via his office's online form.
Earlier this year, Beshear announced nearly 2,200 Kentucky small businesses would get money back from a Michigan-based company that alleged sold scam services. The more than $398,000 settlement by Beshear's office resolved alleged violations of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act by The Mandatory Poster Company Inc., which also does business as Corporate Records Service.
Beshear recommends all Kentuckians stay ahead of scammers by signing up for his office's Scam Alerts. To enroll text the words KYOAG Scam to GOV-311 (468-311) or online at ag.ky.gov/scams and select text message or email alert.