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Accounting News Roundup: Trolling IRS Scammers and Relocating the Back Office | 10.20.16

Trolling phony IRS callers

There seems to be three approaches to handling a bogus phony call from the IRS: 1) Hang up immediately; 2) Confront the caller and try to reason with them (i.e. "I know this is fake. Why would you do this?" etc.) ; 3) Play along for as long as possible until the caller realizes they've been made and shouts curses at you and then hangs up. Approach #1 is the safe route and ensures that your number won't end up on a list of consumer data floating around the black market, however, I understand the lure of approach 2 and 3.

For the sake of journalism and curiosity, Vox's Alvin Chan gwent full #3, trolling his phony IRS callers for weeks; reading back their scripts to them:

One time, an agent named "Paul Thomas" called and began to read the script. But I had heard the script dozens of times, so I started to say it in unison with him. Then I asked for his ID number. He got angry. He claimed the IRS didn't have employee ID numbers, so I told him everyone has an ID number. I told him mine was D4598.

And asking to pay what he supposedly owed because it was an intentional underpayment:

The scammer this time was "Jeff Demer," and he had the unfortunate luck of calling me after I had eaten at Chipotle, which tends to make me moody. He read the script. I played along. Before he finished reading, I told him I wanted to pay immediately.

"Do not interrupt me!" he said.

I let him finish reading. Then he asked me if my tax fraud was intentional or by mistake.

"It was intentional," I said.

"Uhh, great. Since it was a mistake…"

Chang drags this out beautifully, to the point where he's pretending to be in a cab on his way to Walgreens, pretending to pay for iTunes gift cards and then reading gift card numbers off Google Images. Then once he's given the callers the gift card numbers, Chang starts demanding receipts or some other proof of payment since he still had an outstanding balance. Exasperated, the bogus IRS caller told him that his taxes were forgiven for life. All in all, it's a great effort.

Now that there's been a big break in the IRS Scams Inc. case, it's hard to say whether a trolling opportunity like this will come around again. Still, I wouldn't recommend it just to get your pretend taxes forgiven for life.

Back office relocation

As technology allows more functions of business to be performed anywhere, I think we can expect to hear more stories like this one about Morgan Stanley and its use of "regional back-office centers to shift jobs to low-cost cities":

The bank is using the centers, in cities such as Bangalore and Baltimore, to centralize information technology, accounting and risk management work.

The investment bank wants to cut $1 billion in expenses by the end of next year, and has moved roughly 650 jobs to cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Glasgow, Budapest and Baltimore as part of the effort. Morgan Stanley has offset hires in those locations with cuts in “core” locations such financial hubs as New York, London and Tokyo. The bank expects to hire another 600 people in the regional backoffice centers through next year, said Jonathan Pruzan, chief financial officer, in an earnings call on Wednesday.

For you in-house accountants at mega companies like MS, it's a safe bet that you'll be faced with a decision like this at some point in the near future: whether to relocate or to find a new job. And in some cases, relocation might not be an option.

Has Donald Trump released his tax returns?

Nope! He's kept us in suspense for months and now burnt orange scary clown Donald Trump is going to keep us in suspense about whether he'll accept the outcome of the election. It was a good run, America.

University partner viewpoint: Finance, Technology and the CFA

This week's university partner viewpoint features St. Xavier's online Master's of Finance program. SXU incorporates technology used at big financial institutions including Barchart and MATLAB. Its courses also "align with the topics covered in the three levels of the CFA exams: investment tools, asset valuation and portfolio management." You can get more information on SXU's program here.

Previously, on Going Concern…

In Open Items, someone left a Big 4 firm for a mid-tier and wondered if they screwed up. And someone else is trying to leave a small sweatshop for the Big 4.

In other news:

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