IRS Warns Taxpayers of Summer Surge in Automated Phone Scam Calls; Requests for Fake Tax Payments Using iTunes Gift Card

Please note this critical new warning from the IRS!

IRS Warns Taxpayers of Summer Surge in Automated Phone Scam Calls; Requests for Fake Tax Payments Using iTunes Gift Cards

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers to stay vigilant against an increase of IRS impersonation scams in the form of automated calls and new tactics from scammers demanding tax payments on iTunes and other gift cards.

The IRS has seen an increase in “robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Once the victim calls back, the scammers may threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of the victim if they don’t agree to pay.

“It used to be that most of these bogus calls would come from a live-person. Scammers are evolving and using more and more automated calls in an effort to reach the largest number of victims possible,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remain alert for this summer surge of phone scams, and watch for clear warning signs as these scammers change tactics.”

In the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards. The IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on  any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.

Some examples of the varied tactics seen this year are:

  • Demanding payment for a “Federal Student Tax”–IR-2016-81
  • Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed on an iTunes or other type of gift card
  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals–IR-2016-34
  • “Verifying” tax return information over the phone–IR-2016-40
  • Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry–IR-2016-28

Since these bogus calls can take many forms and scammers are constantly changing their strategies, knowing the telltale signs is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.

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 a bill.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • 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, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you don’t owe taxes, here’s what you should do:

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Continue reading “IRS Warns Taxpayers of Summer Surge in Automated Phone Scam Calls; Requests for Fake Tax Payments Using iTunes Gift Card”

St. Francis – Living God’s Heart for the Poor

st-francisIn 1182, Pietro Bernardone returned from a trip to France to find out his wife had given birth to a son. Far from being excited or apologetic because he’d been gone, Pietro was furious because she’d had his new son baptized Giovanni after John the Baptist. The last thing Pietro wanted in his son was a man of God.  He wanted a man of business, a cloth merchant like he was, and he especially wanted a son who would reflect his infatuation with France. So he renamed his son Francesco — which is the equivalent of calling him Frenchman.

Francis enjoyed a very rich easy life growing up because of his father’s wealth and the permissiveness of the times, and as he grew up, Francis became the leader of a crowd of young people who spent their nights in wild parties. Francis fulfilled every hope of Pietro’s.

Battle was the best place to win the glory and prestige, and he longed for that as much as wealth. He got his first chance when Assisi declared war on their longtime enemy, the nearby town of Perugia.  Most of the troops from Assisi were butchered in the fight. Only those wealthy enough to expect to be ransomed were taken prisoner. At last Francis was among the nobility like he always wanted to be…but chained in a harsh, dark dungeon. All accounts say that he never lost his happy manner in that horrible place. Finally, after a year in the dungeon, he was ransomed. Strangely, the experience didn’t seem to change him. He gave himself to partying with as much joy and abandon as he had before the battle.

Francis’ conversion did not happen over night. God had waited for him for twenty-five years and now it was Francis’ turn to wait. Francis started to spend more time in prayer. He went off to a cave and wept for his sins. Sometimes God’s grace overwhelmed him with joy. But life couldn’t just stop for God. There was a business to run, customers to wait on.

His search for conversion led him to the ancient church at San Damiano. While he was praying there, he heardChrist on the crucifix speak to him, “Francis, repair my church.” Francis assumed this meant church with a small c — the crumbling building he was in. Acting again in his impetuous way, he took fabric from his father’s shop and sold it to get money to repair the church. His father saw this as an act of theft — and put together with Francis’ cowardice, waste of money, and his growing disinterest in money made Francis seem more like a madman than his son. Pietro dragged Francis before the bishop and in front of the whole town demanded that Francis return the money and renounce all rights as his heir.

The bishop was very kind to Francis; he told him to return the money and said God would provide. That was all Francis needed to hear. He not only gave back the money but stripped off all his clothes — the clothes his father had given him — until he was wearing only a hair shirt. In front of the crowd that had gathered he said, “Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father. From now on I can say with complete freedom, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’” Wearing nothing but castoff rags, he went off into the freezing woods — singing. And when robbers beat him later and took his clothes, he climbed out of the ditch and went off singing again. From then on Francis had nothing…and everything.

Francis went back to what he considered God’s call. He begged for stones and rebuilt the San Damiano church with his own hands, not realizing that it was the Church with a capital C that God wanted repaired. Scandal andavarice were working on the Church from the inside while outside heresies flourished by appealing to those longing for something different or adventurous.

Slowly companions came to Francis, people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for garbage to eat…and loving God. With companions, Francis knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life so he opened the Bible in three places. He read the command to the rich young man to sell all his goodand give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. “Here is our rule,” Francis said — as simple, and as seemingly impossible, as that. He was going to do what no one thought possible any more — live by the Gospel. Francis took these commands so literally that he made one brother run after the thief who stole his hood and offer him his robe!

Francis never wanted to found a religious order — this former knight thought that sounded too military. He thought of what he was doing as expressing God’s brotherhood. His companions came from all walks of life, from fields and towns, nobility and common people, universities, the Church, and the merchant class. Francis practiced true equality by showing honor, respect, and love to every person whether they were beggar or pope.

This prayer is attributed to him, and it is the traditional prayer of the Church on his day of remembrance.  Let us pray this together.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Reforming American Christianity: Becoming Trinitarian Dance Partners

downloadMany Christians do not know how to express the doctrine of the Trinity, and those who can often do not know how it is relevant to the work, worship and witness of the Church. But, rightly understanding the historical confession of the Trinity can radically alter our sense of identity and our purpose and mission to the least among us as the Church. Continue reading “Reforming American Christianity: Becoming Trinitarian Dance Partners”

The Hope of Gospel Justice

Moody officially releases the book Gospel Justice on Monday, June 3.  Advanced copies have arrived at our office and I encourage you to add the book to your summer reading list.  The book also makes a great gift.  Please visit our website, www.administerjustice.org, to donate and receive a copy.

The hope of Gospel Justice is that “This book will stir your soul and prompt you to seriously consider what Jesus’ words, “Go and do likewise,” mean for you personally and practically.  Bruce Strom intertwines moving stories of real people in crisis with scriptural truths, producing a compelling call to action that no reader will easily ignore.” Carol Thompson, Executive Vice President, Christianity Today.

Gospel Justice tells the story of my personal journey toward understanding God’s heart for justice. I learned much about His heart through the parable of the Good Samaritan and the book shares the lessons I learned.  Along the way you meet real people with real needs who are beaten down by the effects of a sinful, broken world.  These victims of injustice need good news.  They also need practical legal help so they can be restored. 

As my friend Ken Sande states: “Justice lies at the very heart of the Gospel. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus fully satisfied the conditions of God’s justice. Now he is calling us to spread the precious gift of God’s justice into every sphere of life. Gospel Justice beautifully proclaims this call to action. Read it … and then take up its challenge.”  Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360, author The Peacemaker.

The hope of Gospel Justice is that people will be inspired to take action.  For many it is a reminder of why they serve.  For others it is an opportunity to get engaged and make a difference.  God’s heart for justice should be evident throughout the book.  My prayer is that the book will be an encouragement to you and that you will respond as Ron Sider,

“Wonderful.  The stories will make you cry.  The biblical material will challenge your mind.  The stories of success will thrill your heart.  And the combination of evangelism and social justice is fabulous.  An inspiring book that nurtures hope and action.”  Ronald J. Sider, Founder, Evangelicals for Social Action, Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry & Public Policy at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University.

That hope and action is the hope of gospel justice.  Read it.  Share it with others.  Then dare to go and do likewise.

Law Day and Prayer

When did we become enemies?  The law and Christ followers.  May 1 marks national law day.  May 2 marks the national day of prayer.  Standing next to one another – but too often never to connect.

Both days grew out of the 1950’s.  Law Day in 1958 and the National Day of Prayer in 1952.  George Washington held the first national day of prayer,  so a time of fasting, praying and seeking the Divine are not new.  But as a nation of laws we made a day of prayer the law of the land codified in the United States Code – 36 USC 119 – which states:  “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United State may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”

May 1 was Law Day and this year’s theme, “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All,” provides an opportunity to explore the movement for civil and human rights in America and the impact that it has had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law. The day emphasized the work that remains to be done in rectifying injustice, eliminating all forms of discrimination, and putting an end to human trafficking and other violations of our basic human rights. As Dr. King pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We are celebrating 150 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln foresaw “a new birth of freedom” in our nation that was not separated from justice, equality and faith.  Lincoln was a lawyer.  Lincoln was a politician.  Lincoln was a Christian.  He could wear all three under his stove top hat.  Why can’t we?

I dont’ know why prayer and law should be separate.  Washington bowed his knee in Valley Forge.  Lincoln prayed continually.  Shouldn’t we be praying for those who impact our laws and those who provide equal access to the law?  Instead of telling lawyer jokes and pointing out all that is wrong with our laws, why not pray for lawyers, politicians and encourage them to study the Bible and make decisions influenced by the moral fabric of our nation and the tradition of western civilization.  Christ followers should be leading the way by example to a watching world. 

I came across an article this week which demonstrates this truth.  I like Dan Cathy.  He is the chicken guy.  I don’t mean he’s chicken – he has a lot of Godly courage – I mean he heads up Chick-fil-a.  He’s been in the news because of his supposed intolerance toward the gay community.  I say supposed because I think Dan reflects the truth that true Christ followers do not sell out truth but neither do they shut out love.  Dan has struck up a friendship with Shane Windmeyer, an enemy?, a gay activist picketing Chick-fil-a, who Dan reached out to – not to convince Shane he was wrong, but to demonstrate to Shane what the love of Christ looks like and why that motivates convictions based on love, not hate.  The article is written by Shane and is worth reading 

Maybe we can follow Dan and Shane’s example.  Maybe law day and the national day of prayer don’t have to stand next to each other on a calendar and not say “hello”.  I’m not saying we have to embrace all lawyers or all laws, but I am saying let’s be a little kinder and look for opportunity to build bridges of understanding.  Let’s pray for the law.  Let’s pray for lawyers.  Let’s look for opportunity to support a ministry like Administer Justice.  Let’s demonstrate the love of Christ to hurting people who are trapped in our legal and government system in need of help and hope.