There are scammers in every country and Italy is no exception. Here at the Business e via Italy we keep a constantly updated list of scams notified to us by our clients. We’re sharing the top ones with you below.
The lesson is this – if you receive any communication you don’t understand, particularly if it seems to concern tax, pass it to your commercialista to check out.
Marketing Ploys. If you have a new business in Italy, you may be targeted by companies encouraging you to market your fledgling business by paying for an insert in a publication such as The List of Italian Firms Operating in Europe. One company sent our client a plain brown envelope containing only a pre-printed payment order. It was made out in the name of our client for the eminently reasonable sum of €390.57. It looked like a typical bollettino from the Italian Authorities and our client believed it was an official communication requiring him to pay the sum shown. Fortunately he passed it to us for inspection and we were able to tell him that it was nothing more than a cunning marketing ploy. But how many others have handed over their money unwittingly?
Email Scams. One of our clients received an email apparently sent by the Agenzia delle Entrate (the Italian Revenue). The message stated that their tax repayment had been calculated and in order to receive it they should fill out the on-line form attached to the e-mail. Needless to say, the form requires you to give your bank details, identity card number and tax code (codice fiscale). The message in full reads as follows: “Cari Richiedente, 2009 – Ricalcolare Rimborso Fiscali. Dopo l’ultimo calcolo annuale della vostra attività fiscali abbiamo stabilito che si ha diritto a ricevere un rimborso di 284.23 EURO IL TUO NUMERO DI RIMBORSO FISCALE: 2790216815IT1/48. Si prega di compilare il modulo di pagamento da e-mail. Si prega di inviare il rimborso fiscale e ci permettono 3-9 giorni lavorativi al fine di processo. Grazie, Paolo Barricelli –Agenzia delle Entrate – email@example.com – via G. De Marchi, 16 30175 Marghera”. If your Italian is good, you may be alerted by the less than perfect grammar, but otherwise it might well seem a valid request. Luckily, our client was suspicious and forwarded it to us to check over before he filled it in. Bearing in mind that there are over 12.4 million taxpayers in Italy who have been waiting on average 14 years for tax reimbursements, this really does seem a trick in very poor taste.
Crazy Demands: This isn’t really a scam, just one of the more idiosyncratic features of the Italian Revenue! It’s a phenomenon known as “cartelle pazze” (crazy demands), where tax-payers with no debts to the Italian Revenue suddenly receive tax demands for bizarre and substantial sums of tax. These demands seem to be issued automatically without any check being made of the taxpayer’s actual record. They often stem from a validly made payment being allocated to the wrong tax period, and sometimes even to the wrong taxpayer! These demands should be passed on immediately to your Italian accountant so that the position can be checked and an appeal lodged against the assessment. We have had innumerable instances of cartelle pazze landing on our clients’ doormats, and we are proud to say they have always been withdrawn after our intervention.
If you, or people you know, have been on the receiving end of a scam here in Italy, please let us know the details so that we can post them here. The more publicity these scams receive, the less likely they are to be successful.