Identity theft is something that we are all aware of and think about in our everyday lives, but as a business owner do you ever think about your business info? Let me share an incident that happened to us recently where a scam artist tried to impersonate a legitimate business to defraud us and an unsuspecting business.
Here’s what happened…
On Tuesday April 16, 2019 our office was contact by an individual claiming to be “Dr. William Lawler” the owner of a medical office. He indicated that he was looking to set up a new payroll account for his business, Health Wellness Partners Inc. We then emailed him all of the relevant new client paperwork. He emailed back with questions on some of the forms. We answered his questions. At this point there was nothing out of the ordinary about this exchange. Later we looked up Dr. William Lawler, and found the web site for Chiropractic 4 Kids and Families. On this site we saw a video of Dr Lawler who did not sound like the individual that had called us. The man we spoke to had a heavy accent. We found this odd, but thought it may have been an office manager who called representing William Lawler.
Wednesday April 17, 2019 when we arrived in the office there were 2 emails from the supposed doctor, one with the new client paperwork, and employee info. The second asking if we could run payroll for tomorrow. After clearing up some details about the company mainly the EIN for the business, our office, told the fake client that we could have payroll set up that quickly. While inputting the employee info we began to notice some irregularities. All of the employees had out of state drivers’ licenses, but address in Alpine. The signatures on the id/dl didn’t seem to be the same as on the w4s. The I9 forms were out of date, the form having expired in 2012. There was not any personal contact info or emails on the employee new hire forms. The thing that seemed the most out of line was the wages the employees were to be paid. The annual wage for a nurse was not in line with the employment market. At this point I attempted to call the phone number provided by the scammer. There was no answer.
Time to Take Action!
I left a message asking him to call me back because I had some questions on his business. Then I called the phone number I found on the internet for Chiropractic 4 kids. I spoke with the receptionist, and told her that we had been contacted to set up new payroll for them. She did not know anything about it. I then asked her some follow up questions about if any of the employees that we had been given info for worked for them. She said that none of them did. I asked about the business EIN, and was told it was correct. I asked if the bank information was correct, she told me it was not. I asked to verify Dr. Lawler’s email, and was told that it was close to the one that had been provided, but not correct. I thanked her for her help, and left a message with her to have the real Dr. Lawler call me back.
Later that afternoon I was contact by an attorney who represented the real Dr. William Lawler. I explained what had happened, and was told that I was not the only payroll company that had called to verify information to set up a new payroll account.
I again called the provided number again, and it was answered, by the same man with a heavy accent, that I spoke with on Tuesday. I asked who I was speaking with and was told that he was “Dr. William Lawler”. I then explained that on a new payroll the payment would have to clear before we could send out any paychecks, and that it may take several days. I also asked him why the receptionist had never heard of any of the provided “employees”. The scammer replied that they were all new. The man on the phone said that would not be a problem, and to go ahead and with withdraw the money for the bank account. At this point we already knew that this was not a valid client.
What can I do to prevent this?
You may be thinking how “could using a Professional Employer Organization help with this”? What is a PEO? While using a PEO your business information appears in far fewer places. PEO clients don’t need their own unemployment, or withholding accounts. Nor do they file any other quarterlies. So there are fewer chances for thieves to intercepts your information and exploit it.
If you are interested in learning about other way using a PEO could help safeguard your business, and personal info please feel free to contact Employ/Ease to arrange a meeting at (435) 674-0478.