Cyber Fraud – an Emerging and Worsening Threat

Written by Patty Flowers. Patty Flowers is AVP for Investment Property Exchange Services (IPX1031®) and a Certified Exchange Specialist®. See her website.

Take Key Steps to Combat It

Patty Flowers

Patty Flowers

Simply put, cyber fraud is when credit and financial information is stolen online by a hacker and used in a criminal manner. What’s alarming is the rapid growth of detected cyber fraud incidents, as well as the financial costs associated with these events. This emerging threat has the potential to cause serious damage.

“Cybercrime is a clear, present, and permanent danger. While it’s a permanent condition, however, the actors, threats, and techniques are very dynamic.” — Tom Ridge, CEO of Ridge Global and first secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security.

The long known scams of phishing emails, claims of lottery winnings, an inheritance from a long lost relative, or forwarding funds to Nigeria are consistently elevating to new and more deviant levels. More and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the Internet. The fraudsters are getting smarter and bolder and fraud attempts are approached with increased vigor. As an investor or someone directly or indirectly involved in 1031 Exchanges and real estate transactions, being aware and attentive is critically important to you and your clients’ funds and business interests.

For the many frauds that have succeeded, there have been many more near misses that have been caught before funds could be disbursed and potentially never retrieved. IPX1031® is aware of a number of such cyber fraud attempts. These attempts generally try to redirect (and ultimately steal) deposits, purchase funds, closing proceeds or commissions.

At IPX1031® we take these threats very seriously. Protection of investors’ hard earned funds, potentially their entire life savings – is of the utmost importance to us. As part of Fidelity National Financial, we have access to secure systems and industry professionals that may not be available to smaller entities. The security of your information is extremely important in protecting your assets. When you want the best, expect it from IPX1031®, a leader in what matters – safety, security and expertise.

Many individuals and businesses underestimate the threat online fraud poses to their profitability, cash flow and reputation. So don’t leave your data – and your profits – open to cyber criminals. Take some simple steps towards keeping your computers, your information and business secure. Reduce your vulnerability and you reduce your threat.

Here’s a few resources from the FBI and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) on measures you can take to protect yourself and your technology moving forward.

  1. FBI’s how to protect your computer
  2. FBI’s getting educated on Internet fraud

NCA’s Online Safety Guidance for the Public top tips:

  1. No bank or card issuer will contact you by email and ask you to enter all your personal and financial details online. If you receive a message like this, report it to your bank, then delete it
  2. If you get an email from an unknown source, do not open it and do not click on any attachments
  3. Make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date
  4. Never follow the messages from anti-virus software you encounter whilst on the internet. Only follow the anti-virus instructions from the software you have installed on your computer
  5. Install an anti-spyware package
  6. Always use a firewall
  7. Ensure that your software is up to date

NCA’s Common Cyber Threats

  1. Phishing: bogus emails asking for security information and personal details
  2. Webcam manager: where criminals takeover your webcam
  3. File hijacker: where criminals hijack files and hold them to ransom
  4. Keylogging: where criminals record what you type on your keyboard
  5. Screenshot manager: allows criminals take screenshots of your computer screen
  6. Ad clicker: allows a criminal to direct a victim’s computer to click a specific link
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Shades of Gray in 1031 Flips

Written by Patty Flowers. Patty Flowers is AVP for Investment Property Exchange Services (IPX1031®) and a Certified Exchange Specialist®. See her website.

Patty Flowers

Patty Flowers

Forget cooking shows, America’s newest reality show obsession is watching real estate shows such as Flip This House, Flip or Flop, and Rehab Addict. Seeing how a house is bought at a bargain price, quickly transformed and sold for large profits can be scintillating. In fact, it can entice many to try their hand at flipping properties. A big question often encountered is whether profits earned from a flipped property can be used, tax deferred, to purchase the next fixer-upper by structuring the purchase as a 1031 Exchange?

To qualify for tax deferral under section 1031, the property must be “held for” investment or to own the property for the taxpayer’s trade or business (“a qualifying purpose”). This “held for” requirement is not purely black and white. Rather it contains shades of gray.

To help understand the “held for” requirement, the two words “principal intent” are crucial. If the property was acquired with the principal intent to sell, like most flipped properties are, then the property is considered to be inventory and will not be eligible for tax-deferral under section 1031. The goal for most people acquiring property to rehab and thus intent, is for a quick sale and profit, not for an investment or business purpose. Therefore, instead of being able to use all of their profits, tax-deferred to purchase the next property, profits will be taxed as ordinary income.

However if somebody buys a property to fix up to rent, then the principal intent is to own the property for trade or business – the business of renting. This qualifies as a proper use for section 1031 purposes. Likewise, if they acquire vacant land with the intent to hold the property for future appreciation, this qualifies as an investment use for 1031 purposes.

There are other important factors considered by the courts. These can include length of time before selling, why the property was purchased, how the property was used, what improvements were made to the property, the taxpayer’s ordinary business and number of prior sales (are their actions consistent with investing or selling inventory), and how the property was being used when sold. There is no one single factor that will prevail. Rather, courts tend to look at all of the facts to determine whether the taxpayer held the property for a qualifying purpose.

Flips can be lucrative and create a reward of a quick profit. However with most flips, you will be paying taxes at ordinary income tax rates. If your intent is for business or investment and you meet certain criteria, then your property may qualify for 1031 treatment. In areas of gray, consider the benefits of a 1031 compared to the potential costs of an IRS audit, interest and penalties compared to paying taxes due. Talk to your tax or legal advisor to review your individual circumstances.