Archives for February 2018

Elon Musk Is Putting Wireless Service on the Moon (So If You Go There, You Can Watch Netflix)

It’s been 50 years since humans first landed on the Moon and we haven’t done much there since. But Elon Musk is hoping that will change very soon. He already believes there should be a base on the Moon to fire up public interest in space exploration. Then in December, President Donald Trump announced that he wanted to send astronauts back to the moon as a first step toward more distant objectives, such as Mars, where Musk is already planning to land humans sometime within the coming decade.

Musk has also said that his company SpaceX would not build a moon base although it might ferry people and materials there from Earth. But it apparently is ready to help with something else every lunar visitor needs: a way to contact people at home, communicate with other lunar visitors–and watch Netflix during off hours.

So SpaceX, along with mobile network company Vodafone, Nokia, and Audi, will be building a 4G network on the moon in 2019. Even though 5G networks are being built here on Earth, the partners chose 4G because its technology is both more stable and more able to withstand space travel. 

OK, but why build a wireless network on the Moon so soon, when nobody lives there? It’s true that Musk has said he would take space tourists to the moon in late 2018, and indeed had already collected large deposits from two wealthy individuals for the first such trip. But the planned trip is only a Moon fly-by with no landing, so the lunar tourists won’t get much of a chance to use the Moon’s wireless network. And they won’t need it, having the ship’s communication system at their’ disposal. Besides, the pricey lunar fly-by was meant to take place using a Crew Dragon capsule carried by a Falcon Heavy rocket, the same rocket that spectacularly took off earlier this month with a red Tesla Roadster and mannequin dubbed “Starman.” But Musk has said SpaceX is now focusing its attention on its BFR Rocket (for Big Fucking Rocket) and he indicated it may not do much more testing on the Falcon Heavy after all, possibly leaving Moon tourism in limbo. 

According to one report, the purpose of lunar 4G would be to support future lunar missions. Without it, humans and vehicles (such as the lunar rovers Audi is building) could only communicate by beaming signals down to the Earth and back up again. The fact that the planned network will have enough bandwidth to support video streaming raises the appealing prospect of a lunar webcam all of us could watch over the Internet. 

And of course, it’ll come in very handy for space tourists visiting the lunar surface or astronauts working to build a Moon base or on other projects. Maybe someday soon.

China startup Nio hires eight banks for up to $2 billion U.S. IPO: sources

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese electric vehicle startup Nio has hired eight banks including Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) to work on a planned U.S. stock market listing this year worth up to $2 billion, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Other banks are Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N), Credit Suisse (CSGN.S), Citigroup (C.N), Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE), JPMorgan (JPM.N) and UBS (UBSG.S), said the people, declining to be identified as the deal details are not public.

Nio’s proposed IPO of $1 billion-$2 billion comes as the firm, founded by Chinese internet entrepreneur William Li in 2014, seeks fresh capital to finance its expansion and investments in areas including autonomous driving and battery technologies, one of them said.

At the top end of the potential offering size, Nio’s IPO would become the biggest Chinese listing in America since the $25 billion public float of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) in 2014. In October 2016, Chinese logistics company ZTO Express raised $1.41 billion from an IPO in New York.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of electric car startup NIO is seen at a new NIO House “brand-experience” store, in Beijing, China November 25, 2017. REUTERS/Norihiko Shirouzu/File Photo

Nio declined to comment on its IPO plans. UBS, Citigroup and Goldman declined comment while the other banks did not immediately respond to Reuters emailed request for comment.

Shanghai-based Nio, formerly known as NextEV, is among the first of a raft of Chinese electric vehicle firms to launch a production vehicle, with many so far only showing concept cars.

It launched sales of its first mass production car – the ES8 pure-electric, seven-seat sport-utility vehicle in December, at about half the price of American peer Tesla’s Model X. It has also vowed to bring an autonomous electric car to the U.S. market by 2020.

Nio counts Asian tech behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) as its main backer alongside investment firms Hillhouse Capital Group and Sequoia Capital.

Last November, the firm raised more than $1 billion in its latest fundraising round, led by existing investor Tencent, valuing the firm at about $5 billion.

Reporting by Fiona Lau of IFR and Julie Zhu; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Stephen Coates

Exclusive: Secretive U.S. security panel discussing Broadcom's Qualcomm bid – sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A national security panel that can stop mergers that could harm U.S. security has begun looking at Singapore-based chipmaker Broadcom Ltd’s plan to take over rival Qualcomm Inc, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

CFIUS, an opaque inter-agency panel, has been in touch with at least one of the companies in the proposed merger, one source said, and met last month to discuss the potential merger of the two big semiconductor companies, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday to have the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, officially review the proposed transaction before a key shareholder vote expected on March 6, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

The pre-deal discussions by CFIUS — which are extremely rare — suggest Broadcom’s plans to move its headquarters to the United States before it completes its proposed purchase of Qualcomm may not be enough to sidestep a national security review that could threaten the deal.

Part of the CFIUS’ current concern, which is echoed in Cornyn’s letter, could lie in the fact that Broadcom has failed to strike a deal with Qualcomm and has resorted to what is essentially a hostile takeover by putting forward a slate of six Broadcom nominees for Qualcomm’s 11-member board.

If the six are elected on March 6, the vote would give control of Qualcomm to Broadcom’s nominees. That would happen before a CFIUS review or antitrust review is complete.

“I urge CFIUS to promptly review Broadcom’s proposed acquisition of control of Qualcomm’s board, and to act prior to the March 6 Qualcomm meeting to address any national security concerns that may be identified,” Cornyn wrote to Secretary Mnuchin, according to the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A sign on the Qualcomm campus is seen in San Diego, California, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

A spokesman for CFIUS declined to comment. Representatives for Cornyn were not immediately available for comment.

A CFIUS review in itself does not mean a deal will be halted. CFIUS, under former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump, has soured on high tech deals, particularly involving semiconductors, or involving sensitive information about American citizens.

Microprocessor expert Linley Gwennap, of the Linley Group, noted that Qualcomm had world-leading chips in several areas.

“Qualcomm is a crown jewel of the American semiconductor industry,” he said. “I would think that CFIUS would be very protective of that. … Singapore is nominally a friendly country but it still seems dangerous for that level of technology to go overseas.”

Broadcom, which is based in Singapore, struggled to win CFIUS approval to buy Brocade Communications Systems late last year. In the end, that approval came just weeks after Broadcom CEO Hock Tan announced in an Oval Office ceremony with Trump that Broadcom would return its headquarters to the United States.

Broadcom declined to comment on the CFIUS process for this deal but reiterated that it intends to move forward with its move to the United States after receiving approval to do so, which is expected on May 6.

Lawyers who take deals to CFIUS and know how the panel thinks said that it was unusual, if not unprecedented, for a company to move to the United States to avoid CFIUS scrutiny. But they also said that the strategy could work.

“Broadcom could very well establish its position as a U.S. person,” one expert said privately to protect business relationships. “Would CFIUS want to look at it? They would want to be comfortable that Broadcom is actually a U.S. person within the meaning of the statute.”

Others cautioned that CFIUS could also look at the make-up of Broadcom’s board and who the major shareholders are as a way to determine if control of the company resides outside the United States.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Chris Sanders and Lisa Shumaker

Two Singapore Airbnb hosts plead guilty to unauthorized short-term rentals

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Two Singaporeans on trial for unauthorized short-term rentals posted on Airbnb pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday in the first such cases under the city-state’s rules on short-term property letting introduced last year.

The two men were charged for letting four units in a condominium for less than six months without permission from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and face a fine of up to S$200,000 ($152,000) per offense.

Prosecutors however requested fines of S$20,000 per charge for a total of S$80,000 for each of the two defendants, who spoke in court to plead guilty to the charges. Defense lawyers sought fines of $5,000 per charge.

The Singapore government has pledged to seek public feedback on a regulatory framework covering such rentals after the cases of the two hosts prompted a plea from Airbnb that the existing framework was “untenable”.

Airbnb, founded in 2008 in San Francisco, matches people wishing to rent out all or part of their homes to temporary guests.

The firm has clashed with hoteliers and authorities in cities including New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, which are limiting short-term rentals in some cases.

Critics blame Airbnb for exacerbating housing shortages and driving out lower-income residents.

Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait

America's Most-Hated CEO Got Buff in Prison, and People Actually Like Him There. (Here's What Happened)

Maybe you remember Martin Shkreli, who first became famous as the so-called “Pharma Bro” back in 2015 (and then, the “most hated CEO in America.”

This was after his company increased the the cost of a drug used to treat malaria, cancer, and AIDS by 5,455 percent (from $13.50 to $750 a tablet).

Then, he started a PR and social media campaign to suggest that anyone who didn’t like what he did was stupid. 

It explains the explosion of schadenfreude when he was later indicted and found guilty in a completely unrelated stock fraud case.

And it also explains the metaphorical gasp that was heard across the Internet when Shkreli’s bail was revoked, and he was sent to the Brooklyn federal detention center in September. 

It’s a rough place, and a lot of people wondered whether a skinny, young, rich guy like Shkreli, who seems to have a really hard time keeping his mouth shut, might also have a really hard time not getting pushed around–or worse.

Heck, even one of his good friends out here in the free world told a newspaper she was worried for his safety in jail, because “he’s not a popular person. “People threaten him on the Internet every day.”

But it turns out, they needn’t have worried. Shkreli apparently has turned on the charm–and also reportedly hit the gym.

Shkreli was back in court, where the federal government is trying to get him sentenced to a lengthy prison term, and also convince a judge to make him forfeit $7.3 million in assets. 

There was no decision from the judge–he’ll be sentenced in March and faces a possible 20 years. But the New York Post reports Shkreli has “bulked up in prison” and is getting along fine.

There are no photos, only courtroom sketches, but at least according to the Post, Shkreli looked a lot harder and stronger under his blue jail uniform. 

“He’s got his prison muscles, the Post quotes a “source close to the defense” as saying. “They like him in there. … They don’t put their arms around him and say ‘Give me your money’ like they do to other new prisoners… they like him.”

Shkreli’s real danger might stem from how the judge in his case calculates the amount of money (if any) that his victims lost as a result of his fraud and conspiracy convictions.

Shkreli’s lawyers claims they didn’t actually lose anything–the government contends it’s between $9 million and $20 million, and possibly more. The distinction could mean the difference between a sentence of 16 months or less, or else one that could potentially last decades, according to CNBC.

In addition to Shkreli’s appearance in court, we’ve had a few other insights over the past few months into how he’s been faring behind bars.

For one thing, he’s still posting on Facebook occasionally–or at least, a friend with access to his account is apparently doing so on his behalf. 

There are also two letters that he’s sent which have been made public–one to a friend named Lisa Whisnant, and the other to a Brooklyn-based media company called The Tab. He seemed like he was doing okay in both letters.

“Jail has some redeeming qualities,” he wrote to The Tab. “It’s probably the most social environment I’ve been in. … [T]here is camaraderie akin to a military setting. You learn just how lucky you are, you help others out, learn cool slang, watch BET all day. Great times!”

Separately, he wrote Whisnant, “Things are not THAT awful here. … There are some bright sides. I am teaching these prisoners some new things and hopefully some ways to change their lives.”

As part of that effort, Shkreli was looking for books–including a dozen copies of Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese. Self-help books like that are a coveted commodity behind bars, the Post reported.

In case you’d like to get to know the so-called world’s most-hated CEO, or else just do something nice for a few thousand men confined at the federal detention center in Brooklyn (or, if you’re just curious), here’s the list of books Shrekli apparently wanted.

You’ll also need the federal website where you can look him up to send mail or packages from direct-mail retailers.

Crypto 'noobs' learn to cope with wild swings in digital coins

NEW YORK (Reuters) – After researching digital currencies for work last year, personal finance writer J.R. Duren hopped on his own crypto-rollercoaster.

Duren bought $5 worth of litecoin in November, and eventually purchased $400 more, mostly with his credit card. In just a few months, he experienced a rally, a crash and a recovery, with the adrenaline highs and lows that come along.

“At first, I was freaking out,” Duren said about watching his portfolio plunge 40 percent at one point. “The precipitous drop came as a shock.”

The 39-year-old Floridian is part of the new class of crypto-investors who do not necessarily think bitcoin will replace the U.S. dollar, or that blockchain will revolutionize modern finance or that dentists should have their own currency.

Dubbed by longtime crypto-investors as “the noobs”– online lingo for “newbies” – they are ordinary investors hopping onto the latest trend, often with little understanding of how cryptocurrencies work or why they exist.

“There has been a big shift in the type of investors we have seen in crypto over the past year,” said Angela Walch, a fellow at the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies. “It’s shifted from a small group of techies to average Joes. I overhear conversations about cryptocurrencies everywhere, in coffee shops and airports.”

Walch and other experts cited parallels to the late-1990s, when retail investors jumped into stocks like, a short-lived online seller of pet supplies, only to watch their wealth evaporate when the dot-com bubble burst.

Bitcoin is the best-known virtual currency but there are now more than 1,500 to choose from, according to market data website CoinMarketCap, ranging from popular coins like ether and ripple to obscure coins like dentacoin, the one intended for dentists.

Exactly how many “noobs” bought into the craze last year is unclear because each transaction is pseudonymous, meaning it is linked to a unique digital address, and few exchanges collect or share detailed information about their users.

A variety of consumer-friendly websites have made investing much easier, and online forums are now filled with posts from ordinary retail investors who were rarely spotted on the cryptocurrency pages of social news hub Reddit before.

Reuters interviewed eight people who recently made their first foray into digital currency investing. Many were motivated by a fear of missing out on profits during what seemed like a never-ending rally last year.

One bitcoin was worth almost $20,000 in December, up around 1,900 percent from the start of 2017. As of Friday afternoon it was worth about $10,000 after having fallen as much as 70 percent from its peak. Other coins made even bigger gains and experienced equally dizzying drops over that time frame.

“There was that two-month period last year where all the virtual currencies kept going and up and I had a couple of friends that had invested and they had made five-figure returns,” said Michael Brown, a research analyst in New Jersey, who said he bought around $1,000 worth of ether in December.

“I got swept by the media frenzy,” he said. “You never hear stories of people losing money.”

In the weeks after Brown invested, his holdings soared as much as 75 percent and tumbled as much as 59 percent.


Investors who got into bitcoin before its 2013 crash like to refer to themselves as “OGs,” short for “original gangsters.” They tend to shrug off the recent downturn, arguing that cryptocurrencies will be worth much more in the future.

“As crashes go, this is one of the biggest,” said Xavier Levenfiche, who first invested in cryptocurrencies in 2011. “But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a hiccup on the road to greatness.”

Spooked by the sudden fall but not willing to book a loss, many investors are embracing a mantra known as “HODL.” The term stems from a misspelled post on an online forum during the cryptocurrency crash in 2013, when a user wrote he was “hodling” his bitcoin, instead of “holding.”

Mike Gnitecki, for instance, bought one bitcoin at around $18,000 in December and was sitting on a 43 percent decline as of Friday, waiting for a recovery.

“I view it as having been a fun side investment similar to a gamble,” said Gnitecki, a paramedic from Texas. “Clearly I lost some money on this particular gamble.”

Duren, the personal finance writer, is also holding onto his litecoin for now, though he regrets having spent $33 on credit card and exchange fees for a $405 investment.

Some retail investors who went big into cryptocurrencies for the first time during the rally last year remain positive.

Didi Taihuttu announced in October that he and his family had sold everything they owned — including their business, home, cars and toys — to move to a “digital nomad” camp in Thailand.

In an interview, Taihuttu said he has no regrets. The crypto-day-trader’s portfolio is in the black, and he predicts one bitcoin will be worth between $30,000 and $50,000 by year-end.

His backup plan is to write a book and perhaps make a movie about his family’s experience.

“We are not it in it to become bitcoin millionaires,” Taihuttu said.

Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Steve Orlofsky; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra

How To Turn Data Into Actionable Strategies

So your organization has a big vision and uses that vision as the North Star for guiding strategic decisions. But when you’re only deploying against vision with no data to back it up, you’re flying blind.

This is where business intelligence (BI) comes in.

There are many definitions for BI, but in a nutshell it’s an architecture and set of integrated technologies, methodologies and processes that translate raw data into meaningful, useful information. And this output is used to enable more effective strategic decision making and planning to guide the organization.

BI is not new. In fact, it dates back to 1865 when the phrase was first introduced in the “Cyclopedia of Commercial and Business Anecdotes” in an article about a banker who gathered information and acted on it before his competition could and realized a profit. And in 1958, IBM computer scientist Hans Peter wrote a revolutionary article “A Business Intelligence System” that described an automatic system for disseminating information to the various sections of an organization.

Today, organizations are using it for the same purposes: forecasting, predicting future customer behavior, improving strategies, identifying new opportunities, searching for hidden patterns, etc. What’s changed is we have tools that now provide deeper data insights.

Why do you need BI?

With BI you’re able to see what happened, what is currently happening in real time, why, predict what will happen in the future, and better identify how to direct or reshape the outcome (what you want to have happen). In essence, BI empowers fact-based decision making.

It also helps ensure everyone on your team –from the C-suite to the sales team and operations to finance –is operating from a single source of truth. That is, rather than having sales using one system, set of tools and rules, and marketing having a completely different set, everyone has insight into the same data sets and information. It aligns decision making across the entire organization.

Most businesses are sitting on a mountain of data already, and BI bridges the gap between data and actionable strategies. For example, BI might enable your sales and marketing team to answer things like:

  • Which customer should we target, when, where and why?
  • What caused the dip in our lead generation last month?
  • What is the most profitable source of sales leads and what elements have impacted that source traditionally?
  • Where does our efficiency ratio drop and how is it impacting our operations?

You’ll also be able to more accurately identify whether that new product or service is worth the risk of launching, when is the best time to launch it and into which market, what the cost should be, etc. BI can, and should, be used across the entire business to make more informed decisions.

Stages of Business Intelligence

Traditionally, there have been five stages of BI: Data sourcing, data analysis, situation awareness, risk analysis, and decision support.

Data sources — gathering information from multiple data sources such as relational databases, analytic databases, and business applications like customer relationship management (CRM) platforms or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, to name a few.

Data analysis — the data collected from these sources is only useful if you can synthesize it from the various sources and derive meaning from it. This is where you take the information and turn it into knowledge.

Situation awareness — how you put context around the data. It’s observing and understanding the implications of what’s going on around you and forces that may be at play.

Risk analysis — this is where you take what you know (the data – information – knowledge) and utilize it to assess current and future risk, costs and benefits of taking one action versus another. It’s assessing risk versus reward.

Decision support — identify and select intelligent decisions and strategies. Some also refer to this as the presentation layer, which are the dashboards, reports and alerts used to present the findings from the analysis.

At our agency, we’ve further distilled this down to four. We like to think of business intelligence as a systematic combination of reporting, analytics, intelligence, and strategy.

  1. Reporting — what do we see?
  2. Analytics —what does it mean to us? It’s translating what you see into terms that relate to your business.
  3. Intelligence — what do we do? In other words, what do we do about what we’ve uncovered? How do we put the data into action?
  4. Strategy — what is the outcome we want to achieve? Strategy acts as a filter to ensure you’re not just seeing what you want to see, but what’s actually there and use that to guide next steps.

BI gives organizations the ability to gain access to focused analysis at a scale, complexity and speed not easily achievable with traditional operational reporting or spreadsheet analysis. It allows you to go layers deeper, to look at what could be influencing the changes in your business, and even stay one step ahead of those potential changes to mitigate risk.

According to Cindi Howson, research vice president at Gartner, “There is a need for reporting, but reporting alone is not enough. If you’re only doing reporting you’re behind already. Unless your reporting is smart and agile, you’re behind. You’re a laggard.”

Yes, Uber Really Is Killing the Parking Business

An email from the CEO of a national parking operator has added some detail to the impact ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are having on demand for parking. The picture, at least for those trying to rent you a parking spot, is bleak.

In the email, unearthed from a company report by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Ace Parking CEO John Baumgardner says that demand for parking at hotels in San Diego has dropped by 5 to 10%, while restaurant valet demand is down 25%. The biggest drop, unsurprisingly, has been at nightclubs, where demand for valet parking has dropped a whopping 50%.

The numbers appear to be estimates, and Baumgardner doesn’t describe a timeframe for the declines. The assessment, written in September of last year, is also limited to San Diego, though an Ace Parking executive told the Union-Tribune that it has seen “similar” declines at its 750 parking operations around the United States. The company is focused on using technology, including better parking scheduling and booking options, to remain healthy.

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But much more is at stake than the revenues of the parking business – cities stand to benefit immensely as demand for parking drops. Parking spaces and lots generate relatively little tax revenue or economic activity relative to commercial operations, and by increasing sprawl may actually harm the economy of cities like Los Angeles.

Even back in 2015, cities were already relaxing zoning requirements that set minimum parking allotments, and there are now even more signs that city planners are thinking differently about parking. Perhaps most dramatically, a new Major League Soccer stadium being planned for David Beckham’s Miami expansion team may include no new parking at all – but will have designated pickup zones for Uber and Lyft.

The decline of parking will only be accelerated if and when autonomous vehicles become widespread. That sea-change which will make it easier to locate parking at a distance from urban destinations, and could further reduce car ownership. That will be bad news for the Ace Parkings of the world – but everyone else should welcome the decline of the urban parking lot.

Beware This Incredibly Silly—But Still Effective—Tax Scam

It’s almost Tax Day, which also means it’s peak tax fraud season. The Internal Revenue Service has played some epic games of cat-and-mouse with phone and online scammers over the past 10 years, but the latest scamming trend for 2018 has a particularly devious twist.

Here’s how it works: Attackers use a taxpayer’s stolen identity information to fraudulently file their returns for a refund. They allow that refund to direct deposit into the victim’s actual bank account. Then the real fun starts. The scammers—posing as the IRS—call the victim, demanding that they return the wrongfully allocated refunds. Since the victim presumably hasn’t yet filed their own taxes, it’s easy for them to assume a mistake was made—and send their money to the crook.

That’s right. They give you the money, and hope they can trick you into voluntarily passing it along to them.

“It is definitely a nationwide problem,” says IRS spokesperson Cecilia Barreda. “When people get this phone call and then they go and look at their bank account and actually do see the money there, that lends a greater credibility to what the person is hearing on the other end of the phone.”

Scammers steal the personal information to file for refunds from tax preparers, accounting firms, corporate data breaches, and other identity-theft schemes. The IRS first warned tax professionals about the rise of the new “erroneous refunds” scam at the beginning of February, and released a followup alert for the general public last week.

So far victims have been hit by at least two different versions of the hustle. In one, attackers pretend to be debt collection agents contracted by the IRS to recover fraudulent or mistakenly issued refunds. They instruct the victim how to repay the money to the “collection agency,” and capitalize on the perceived urgency of receiving a call from a collection bureau. In the other scenario, victims receive an automated call claiming to be from the IRS, in which a voice recording claims that the victim could be charged with fraud and arrested for failing to return the money. The recordings also threaten that the victim’s Social Security numbers will be “blacklisted,” whatever that means. Finally, the recording shares a case number and phone number for the victim to call to “return” the erroneous refund.

“One of the reasons this scam has been successful is because it deviates from other scams in the initial victim contact,” says Crane Hassold, a threat intelligence manager at the security firm PhishLabs, who previously worked as a digital behavior analyst for the FBI. “Most scams like this start with an initial communication that evokes fear or anxiety. This scam, though, starts with a somewhat plausible action—the ‘erroneous refund’—then follows that up with the fear and anxiety tactics. Because the initial contact is unexpected and could be interpreted as a simple mistake, it likely makes the usual fear and anxiety tactics more effective.”

As with other types of tax scams, the crucial thing to remember is that the IRS will basically never call you on the phone, and certainly not to demand payment. A call to discuss taxes owed would always be preceded by multiple paper bills, and the opportunity to appeal the amount owed. The IRS also never requires one specific payment method, and doesn’t ask for credit/debit card numbers on the phone. Finally, the bureau never threatens to bring in law enforcement during a phone conversation.

Knowing that should help people discredit virtually all IRS phone scams. If you do receive an erroneous refund, threatening calls are “not an approach that the IRS would take” to resolving the situation, Barreda says. “If you get a call, hang up and always contact the IRS directly and verify what your tax situation is,” she adds. Your bank can return a direct deposit to the IRS while you contact the bureau to explain the reimbursement, and potentially initiate identity theft protections.

Analysts see at least some good in these scam evolutions, because they mean that the steps the IRS has taken to reduce fraud are working, forcing criminals to find new hustles. Then again, that’s not so reassuring for the millions of taxpayers at risk of facing these threats head on.

The Tax Man Scammeth

Gadget Lab Podcast: A Deep Dive on Apple's HomePod