Thursday, March 24, 2016

“2016 has been proclaimed the year Ransomware holds America Hostage”

Ransomware has been around in many different forms since 1989. Today, it has become one most talked about attacks on computers. Ransomware arrives in E-Mail in many different ways. It usually is an attachment resembling an invoice, shipping document, or some other inviting inquiry such as tax documents. Ransomware takes one of two forms of infection. It either locks your computer from operation or it encrypts data files on your local drive, share drives, network drives and even cloud stored data. In any event, the hacker is requesting a ransom fee to free your computer or files. The only other way to recover is from backup. At this point in time, no legal recourse exists.

Everyone needs to take precautions. It is important to be even more diligent in exercising safe E-Mail habits. Always use good judgment when opening E-Mails and E-Mail attachments. One wrong click can prove to be disastrous, infecting your PC (and in some cases the network) with malware or the more damaging ransomware. In creating and sending E-Mails constantly adhere to the proper use and naming conventions of E-Mail attachments.

What does this mean for you or your business?

Any user activating a ransomware virus will cause all networks files, such as tax data files, QuickBooks files, excel files, word files on the network drives to be infected. In other words, you could be shut down or out of business until a ransom is paid or data is recovered from backups which is a time consuming process. No one is immune to ransomware viruses.

In January 2016, there was a company infected with a ransomware virus. A whole day of productivity was lost to recover data from backups. Unfortunately, other businesses that did not have backups of their system have paid the ransom. The Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital Medical System had to pay $17000 after 10 days of pursing other options to release their systems in February 2016. There have been others who have paid including law firms, school districts and law enforcement agencies.

What are the best defenses?

The best defenses against RANSONWARE:
  • DO NOT open email attachments that did not come from a reliable source.
  • DO NOT open email attachments with unconventional file names or extensions.
  • DO NOT open email attachments that look suspicious even if from a reliable source – verify with the sender first.
  • DO NOT ignore or take lightly Outlook’s message that email might be unsafe.
  • DO NOT take lightly requesting emails  to be released from the PureMessage quarantine
  • Insure that you have reliable backups of your systems. Verify and test backups on a regular basis. Multiple backups are a plus.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your KOS Advisor and we will be happy to assist you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Beware of IRS Scammers!!

Every day we receive calls from clients with stories of phone calls from the IRS.  These calls are very threatening and are almost always a phishing scheme with someone trying to obtain personal information.  The following information is extracted from IR-2016-40. 

The Treasury inspector General for Tax Administration announced that they have received reports of approximately 900,000 phone contacts in the last two years and the numbers are increasing.  They are aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of these scams.

Here are some things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:
  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.
  • Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money or to verify your identity, here’s what you should do:

If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:
  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax:
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.
Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on

Friday, March 4, 2016

KOS Partner Geoff Harlow Quoted in Forbes - March 4, 2016

So you didn't get around to saving for retirement in 2015? There's still time, thanks to rules that give you a grace period into 2016 to make 2015 contributions to an IRA, a Roth IRA, and for those with self-employment income, also a SEP-IRA. You could potentially sock away a total of $59,000 for 2015.

KOS Partner Geoff Harlow offers some sound tax advice in Forbes today. Check out the article, 
Tax Season Retirement Savings Strategies For Procrastinators to learn more!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The March Bottom Line Bulletin is Available!

Check out the KOS "Bottom Line Bulletin" Newsletter if you haven't already!  This month we are featuring an article by Partner, Alan Kalfen entitled "Prevent Banking Blunders" and also an article by Senior Accountant, Diana Spatoulas entitled "The Path to a Medical Nest Egg: A Health Savings Account." As always there is a section on news around KOS featuring many of our own being appointed to different CPAAI Association Committees.

You can view our newsletter on our website at

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