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May 22, 2017 from 6 steps to close accounts when a cardholder dies

When someone dies, the task of notifying financial institutions and closing credit card accounts can easily be forgotten or pushed aside.

Unfortunately, if card accounts are not dealt with properly and immediately, problems can crop up that make life more difficult later. Family members and others may innocently – or not so innocently – continue to use the deceased person’s card. Identity thieves troll the obituaries and online records to learn about recent deaths, so they can steal from accounts or create new ones. Banks may send out late notices and add extra fees when the next payment is missed…

Additional information provided by Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection: 

As the article states, creditors like a credit card company come last in priority, just in front of heirs.  Secured claims, taxes, administrative expenses and various rights of spouses and heirs all come before unsecured creditors receive anything.  If there is no money left in the estate, such creditors will receive nothing.

In Maine, a notice to creditors is published by the clerk of probate.  Creditors (other than the government) have four months to file a claim or the collection of the debt is barred.  Payment is not usually made until at least 6 months has passed and usually longer.

May 19, 2017 from Suspect card fraud? How to file a claim

If you spot an unauthorized purchase on your credit or debit card statement, will you know what to do, who to call, and how to protect your account?

Forty-seven percent of Americans have experienced card fraud in the past five years, according to the ACI Worldwide 2016 Global Consumer Card Fraud report.

Knowing what actually constitutes fraud, and what to do when it happens, is the best way to protect yourself from additional bogus charges, and potential liability for not reporting it in a timely manner…

 

More information provided by Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection: 

Mainers are uniquely protected by one of the finest file freeze law in the U.S.

Maine’s file freeze law went into effect on 10/15/15, and allows adult Maine residents to place a lock or freeze on their credit files with the major reporting agencies: Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and Trans Union (1-888-909-8872).   Each consumer reporting agency (CRA) has a separate file freeze number (previously listed), which allows consumers to speak on a secure, automated line—providing personal information like their name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.  The file freeze is immediate, and the length of the freeze is the option of the consumer.   The CRA then mails (10 days to 3 weeks) an envelope to the consumer containing a special personal identification number or PIN, and a dedicated toll-free number to call to lock/unlock the credit file.  A personal assistant or executor of an estate should consider locking down the decedent’s credit file upon death to reduce the chance of nefarious/illegal uses of that person’s identity. 

A national law, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act or FACT Act, allows each consumer to order a free copy of their credit files (Equifax, Experian & Trans Union) once each year by calling 1-877-322-8228).   A review of the active credit accounts of a decedent, including credit cards, is a good first step in determining if the estate has any outstanding credit accounts that need to be paid off. 

Secretary Dunlap releases animated version of Used Vehicle Buyer’s Guide

05/15/2017 11:16 AM EDT

AUGUSTA – Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is unveiling an animated version of the Used Vehicle Buyer’s Guide, which explains the buyer’s rights when purchasing a used car in the State of Maine.

“Many people have misconceptions about the law when purchasing a used car, so we hope that putting this information in an animated format will make it easier for the public to access the facts they need to know before making such a significant purchase,” said Secretary Dunlap.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles, is the only law enforcement agency that specializes in the enforcement of regulatory compliance and prosecutes crimes under motor vehicle and criminal law. Its detectives investigate an average of 4,000 cases a year. Their work includes enforcement of laws concerning various types of vehicle dealers, title fraud, odometer fraud, automobile identification, auto theft investigations, registration evasion, insurance fraud, driver license and state identification card fraud, and consumer complaints.

New FTC Website Helps Small Businesses Avoid Scams and Cyber Attacks

Attacks can be especially devastating to small businesses; Agency provides information on how they can protect themselves

PRESS RELEASE

May 9, 2017

At the direction of Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, the Federal Trade Commission has launched a new website – ftc.gov/SmallBusiness – with articles, videos, and other information aimed at helping small business owners avoid scams and protect their computers and networks from cyberattacks and other threats.

“Small businesses are critical to our economic strength, building America’s future, and helping the United States compete in today’s global marketplace,” Acting Chairman Ohlhausen said. “This innovative new website is a one-stop shop where small businesses can find information to protect themselves from scammers and hackers, as well as resources they can use if they are hit with a cyberattack.”

According to the U.S.Small Business Administration (SBA), there are more than 28 million small businesses nationwide, employing nearly 57 million people. Scammers frequently target small businesses with deceptive tactics designed to get them to pay for supplies they didn’t order, donate to fake charities or trick them into giving access to their network or downloading malware that can corrupt their business’s computers.

Cyberattacks can be particularly devastating to small businesses, and many of them lack the resources that larger companies have to devote to cybersecurity. Symantec Corp.’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report(link is external) indicates the percentage of spear-phishing attacks targeting small business rose dramatically from 18 percent to 43 percent between 2011 and 2015.

The FTC’s new web page offers specific information to help small businesses protect their networks and their customer data. This includes a new Small Business Computer Security Basics guide, which shares computer security basics to help companies protect their files and devices, train employees to think twice before sharing the business’s account information, and keep their wireless network protected, as well as how to respond to a data breach. It also has information on other cyber threats such as ransomware and phishing schemes targeting small businesses. The FTC is continuing to work with the SBA on additional ways to help small businesses.

click image for “Ransomware – a Closer Look”

Another vulnerability of credit cards – CreditCards.com issues a warning

The new card skimming is called ‘shimming’

It targets EMV chip cards and is hard to detect, but remains rare

By

Remember the card skimming wave, in which fraudsters attach false fronts to outdoor ATM and gas pump point-of-sale terminals to harvest the details off your card’s magnetic stripe and clone your card?

The bad guys are back with a new, improved data pickpocketing technique called shimming, in which they secretly insert a shimmer, a paper-thin, card-size shim containing an embedded microchip and flash storage into the “dip and wait” card slot itself, where it resides unseen to intercept data off your credit or debit card’s EMV chip. Although the scammers can’t use that purloined chip data to clone an actual chip card (for reasons we’ll discuss shortly), they can clone a mag stripe version that’s fully capable of defrauding banks and merchants who may not be paying close attention to their card security protocols.

What makes shimmers potentially more effective that skimmers? They can easily be inserted into indoor, in-store POS terminals, where they record the data being shared between the card’s chip and the terminal. What’s more, when the scammers periodically collect the shim to harvest its bounty, they appear to be doing nothing more than paying at the terminal.

Both scams gained momentum domestically as the United States ramped up for what has turned out to be a slow, rocky and ongoing transition from mag stripe to chip cards, contributing to a record 15.4 million victims of U.S. identity fraud in 2016.

Tap this image to read entire article including tips for protecting yourself.

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New development could cause scammers to capitalize on potential confusion

Senator Collins Cautions Consumers of IRS’s Use of Private Debt Collection Companies

PRESS RELEASE
April 14, 2017

Click image for more information

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, is cautioning consumers to be aware of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) new policy of using private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes.

Under the new protocol, the IRS has authorized four private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes. They are CBE Group of Cedar Falls, IA; Conserve of Fairport, NY; Performant of Livermore, CA; and Pioneer of Horseheads, NY. Only one of these companies will contact you in the event you owe money to the IRS.
Here is what you need to know about this new development:

  • If you have an overdue balance on your account, the IRS will first send you a letter informing you that it is giving your information to one of the four companies listed above, providing the company name and contact information.
  • The debt collector will then send you a letter confirming the account turnover prior to contacting you by phone.
  • Upon calling you, they will be able to discuss payment options, but the only way you can pay your tax debt is electronically or by check payable to the US Treasury.

“The IRS’s use of private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes is in the spirit of efficiency, but may create confusion for those already susceptible to the IRS impersonation scam, like our nation’s seniors,” said Senator Collins. “I urge consumers to remain vigilant and protect themselves from potential scams that could stem from this new development.”

If you know you don’t owe taxes or do not immediately believe that you do, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484.

To read more about this change from the IRS, click HERE.

Never give personal information, such as bank account or credit card numbers, to someone you do not know. If you suspect fraud, please contact the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470

Treasurer Hayes Warns of Suspicious, Unofficial Unclaimed Property Websites or Notices

State Treasurer Seeking Rightful Owners of Property, Urges Caution Against Suspicious Websites

PRESS RELEASE
04/13/2017 12:28 PM EDT

AUGUSTA – New scams, promising to return unclaimed property for a fee, are targeting Maine residents through unofficial websites and notices in the mail.

State Treasurer Terry Hayes is warning residents to be wary of these websites and to be cautious of mailings or emails stating that you have unclaimed property with the State of Maine. “Each year, new schemes are created that attempt to take advantage of Mainer’s familiarity with our Unclaimed Property Program. While there are many differences between our program and these schemes, the easiest way to spot a scheme is if it asks for payment information.” says Treasurer Hayes.

The Office of the State Treasurer does maintain a list of unclaimed property, and receives new properties each year. However, there is no fee for you to review the list, or to claim your property. To ensure that you are obtaining the correct information for unclaimed property with the State of Maine, go to the official website  or call the Treasurer’s Office at (207) 624-7470. To search for unclaimed property in other states, visit www.missingmoney.com, a nationally recognized database of state unclaimed property programs.

Unclaimed Property consists of cash and other financial assets that are considered lost or abandoned when an owner cannot be located after a specified period of time. It includes, among other items, checking accounts, certificates of deposit, over payments, gift certificates, life insurance policies, unpaid wages, uncashed checks, death benefits, dividends, insurance payments, refunds, savings accounts, stocks and contents of safe deposit boxes. Unclaimed Property does not include real estate, animals or vehicles. During the period from July 2016 through March 2017, over 17,000 Mainers reclaimed more than $13 million of lost funds.

April is Financial Literacy Month

Washington Post columnist, Michelle Singletary ‘s column in Maine Sunday Telegram offers advice to many of us who have fallen for “Fake News” that now appears in online news sources as  “Paid Promoted Stories” or “Sponsored Content.” Read her column How to protect yourself — and your wallet — from fake news. In part, she writes:

April is Financial Literacy Month. It’s an annual effort by consumer advocacy groups to highlight the need for all of us to be better informed. As part of this year’s campaign, the FoolProof Foundation has rolled out a “Fake News” resource page on its website (foolproofme.com/topics/fake-news).

Her conclusion: “Understanding the evolving strategies by marketers and advertisers will ultimately save you real money and real time.”

 

 

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