Archive for the ‘Consumer Alerts’ Category

Information for Maine JobLink Account Holders

More than 12,000 resumes in the database

America’s JobLink (AJL) Data Incident

Press Release
TOPEKA, Kan., March 21, 2017 – America’s JobLink (AJL), a multi-state web-based system that links job seekers with employers, has been the victim of a hacking incident from an outside source. AJLA–TS is developed and maintained by American’s Job Link Alliance–Technical Support (AJLA–TS). AJLA–TS has been in business for almost 50 years; this is the first known intrusion AJLA–TS has experienced.

On March 21st, AJLA–TS confirmed that a malicious third party “hacker” exploited a vulnerability in the AJL application code to view the names, Social Security Numbers, and dates of birth of job seekers in the AJL systems of up to ten states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oklahoma, and Vermont. Upon discovery of this activity, AJLA–TS immediately intervened and deployed its technical team to assess and stop the incursion, disabling the hacker’s access to the AJL systems.

AJLA–TS is working diligently with law enforcement officials to identify and apprehend the perpetrator. An independent forensic firm is completing work to determine how many job seeker accounts may have been viewed and where those individuals are located. The firm has verified that the method of the hacker’s attack has been remediated and is no longer a threat to the AJLA–TS system.

AJLA–TS also develops and maintains ReportLink, a workforce program data management system, and CertLink, a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) management system. The forensic firm has concluded that the code vulnerability did not affect those systems.

Media and individuals with additional questions should contact Christine Bohannon, Director, AJLA–TS at christineb@ajla.net.

Information for Maine JobLink Account Holders, Especially Those Containing Valid Social Security Numbers

New accounts created on or after March 16 are not affected.

Job seeker accounts that include a valid Social Security Number are potentially at most risk. To check this please log into your JobLink account; as long as you were not actively filing for unemployment benefits you can delete your Social Security Number from your JobLink account. You can do this online without calling the department.

Additional information will be sent to the email on file in Maine JobLink to individuals determined most at risk in accordance with state law.

The department recommends that you put a freeze on your credit report if you had a valid Social Security Number in your JobLink account. Maine law allows you to freeze your credit report for free.

A credit freeze will prevent unauthorized parties from accessing your credit report unless you give them specific permission. Freezing your credit will not affect your credit score. The three Credit Reporting Agencies are Equifax, https://www.freeze.equifax.com ; Experian, https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html ; and Trans Union, http://www.transunion.com/securityfreeze .

It is possible for you to place a free, 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports with the three major credit reporting organizations, and to extend the 90-day alert by calling for an extension after the initial 90 days.

Under Maine law, you are also entitled to a free credit report from the three reporting agencies each year. Detailed instructions for taking these steps are available on the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation’s website, http://www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions/consumer/credit_report.htm .

Questions can be addressed by calling the Maine Department of Labor at 1-888-457-8883. Due to an expected high call volume, your patience is appreciated.

 

In First Move on Student Loans, Administration Announces Fee Hike on Struggling Borrowers

Education Department to Allow Debt Collectors to Charge 16% Default Penalty

The Consumer Federation of America press release

Washington, D.C. – In its first major policy decision on student loan issues, the U.S. Department of Education took action to give agencies collecting on certain defaulted student debt the right to charge a 16% fee to borrowers who promptly seek to back their loans. The action reverses previous guidance that forbid fees that lead to ballooning borrower costs.

“The Administration’s first move on the student loan default crisis will do nothing to stop the tidal wave of defaults that is sweeping across the nation,” said Rohit Chopra, Senior Fellow at the Consumer Federation of America and the former Student Loan Ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “With more than 3,000 Americans defaulting on a student loan every day, this just adds insult to injury.”

Current guidance forbids the guaranty agencies that collect on defaulted debt to tack on large collection fees if the student loan borrower makes – and honors – a repayment arrangement within 60 days of the notice of default. Federal student loans typically enter a default status when borrowers are 270 days late on their payments. Due to servicing mistakes, many borrowers may be learning about problems with their loan for the first time. These agencies are entitled to “reasonable” collection costs under existing law, but hefty fees were considered inappropriate for borrowers who promptly seek to address their default.

The action applies only to borrowers who took out loans from banks and other institutions, not Federal Direct Loans.

One of these agencies, USA Funds, fought the Education Department for the right to charge large collection fees to these borrowers who quickly make arrangements to get out of default.

Last week, the Consumer Federation of America released an analysis that showed that 1.1 million Americans defaulted on a federal student loan in 2016. Americans are now in default on $137 billion in federal student loans.

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.

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Link for managing student loans

Deal with abuse, phishing, or spoofing in Outlook.com

We asked how to deal with suspicious emails like those from FedEx that were obviously phishing scams.  We often forward them to abuse@msn.com but wondered if that was the best method. This was the response we received.

Thank you for contacting Outlook.com Support today. I understand your concern when you are having trouble forwarding fraudulent emails that you may be receiving in your account. I will be more than happy to help you with this information.

First, I do want to provide you with information on how to forward an email. You don’t have to open the email message to forward it, first select the message you want to forward, click on the arrow (v) at the right of “Reply All” button and select “Forward”.

Just to clarify, are you receiving an email that is a phishing scam or a fraudulent email that looks to have been sent from your own email address?
We have two ways of handling a phishing scam or an email address that looks to have been sent from your own email address.

1. If you’ve received an email that appears to be a phishing scam, select the email in the inbox, click on Junk from the top menu, and select Phishing from the drop down options. 

Click image for more information

 2. If you have received a spam message that has been sent from your email account, you may be the victim of spoofing. Someone is impersonating you and we ask that you please forward those emails to abuse@outlook.com. I do want to let you know that spoofing emails are harmless but I understand that they can be troublesome. Once you have forwarded those messages to abuse@outlook.com they will then be sent to a different department for further investigations. I do want to let you know that department can get busy and it could take them up to 30 days to investigate those emails.

Thanks, Outlook.com!

Scammers even impersonate kidnappers – FTC

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March 10, 2017
by Alesha Hernandez
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Imposters will pretend to be anyone to get you to send them money. Recently, reports of the virtual child kidnapping imposter scam have resurfaced. The scam begins with a call from someone claiming to have kidnapped a child in your family. You may even hear sounds of a child in distress in the background. The scammer demands money immediately, often wanting money sent through a wire transfer service or by prepaid card.  The scammer may even insist that you keep the call a secret and not alert the police.

These calls are fake and law enforcement organizations, like the FBI, are aware of this type of scam.

If you get a call like this, resist the urge to send money immediately, no matter how dramatic the story.  These scammers are good at pressuring you to send money before you have time to think.  How do they know your information? Scammers will search the internet and social media sites to get personal information.

It’s natural to want to check on your child’s safety, even if your head tells you the call is fake. That’s OK. Contact your child or their school directly. Then you can report this fraud at ftc.gov/complaint.

Little Tikes Recalls Toddler Swings Due to Fall Hazard – CPSC

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled swings and contact Little Tikes for a refund in the form of a credit towards the purchase of another Little Tikes product.

Source: Little Tikes Recalls Toddler Swings Due to Fall Hazard

 

Units:
About 540,000
Description:

This recall involves Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug’n Secure pink toddler swings. The swings have a pink T-shaped restraint in front with a Little Tikes logo. The swing is suspended by four yellow ropes.  The model number 615573 is molded on the back of the swing seat and there is a manufacturing date code stamp on the back of the seat. The molded INNER arrow of the date code stamp points to “10”, “11”, “12” or “13”, it is included in the recall.  In addition, swings with a date code stamp of “9” on the INNER arrow combined with “43” or higher number stamped on the OUTER are included in this recall. No other date codes or other colored swings are affected.

Incidents/Injuries:

The firm has received about 140 reports of the swing breaking, including 39 injuries to children including abrasions, bruises, cuts and bumps to the head. Two of the reported injuries included children with a broken arm.

Remedy:

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled swings and contact Little Tikes for a refund in the form of a credit towards the purchase of another Little Tikes product.

Sold At:

Walmart, Toys “R” Us and other stores nationwide and online at www.littletikes.com and other websites from November 2009 through May 2014 for about $25.

Manufacturer(s): Little Tikes, of Hudson, Ohio
Manufactured In:  U.S.

How to spot dirty tricks when buying a used car

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Feb. 13, 2017, at 10:12 a.m.
Click image to see 10 ways to spot a flood-damaged car

Click image to see 10 ways to spot a flood-damaged car

Buying a used car is one of the most stressful purchases a consumer can make. Here are some suggestions intended to ease the tension.

Check first with an established dealer. Maine’s used car dealers are bonded. Their vehicles must have valid inspection stickers, and sales include “clear” titles with no encumbrances. Shady Sales in Anywhere, Maine, might save you a few dollars, but there could be big headaches that follow.

Consumers can check with the attorney general’s office to see if dealers they’re considering have large numbers of complaints against them. Another source of information is the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in the secretary of state’s office.

Mark Silk is chief detective at the bureau. He recommends consumers deal with known dealers, because “there are so many more protections” than dealing online or through private sales.

He suggests asking to see the title to the vehicle. It should indicate its prior use — taxi, fleet vehicle, police, etc. The title also might show some “red flags,” such as having been rebuilt after a crash.

The title also should show the odometer reading when the prior owner stopped driving it. If the odometer has been replaced, it must read either zero — with accompanying door sticker stating that fact — or the same mileage as the odometer that it replaced.

Silk also urges car shoppers to look closely at any used car, for the following signs of trouble:

— Watermarks in the engine compartment.

— Rust or flaking on the undercarriage.

— Stiff wiring under the dash.

— Mud, sediment or sand in door panels.

All of the above might be signs that the car is flood-damaged. If your nose is keen, you can likely smell trouble before you buy. In any case, have a trusted mechanic check out a car before you sign a sales agreement.

Mark also reminds buyers that there is nothing in Maine law that requires a dealer to charge a document fee. While those fees can run into hundreds of dollars, charging them is up to the dealer. If they are charged, they must be conspicuously posted.

Note to readers

A few parting words are in order, as this is the last column I’ll be writing for Consumer Forum. Since its founding in 1972, a lot has changed for Northeast CONTACT (originally named C.O.M.B.A.T., for Consumers of Maine Bringing Action Together). At its peak, our all-volunteer group helped walk-ins in need of mediation or other assistance; our assistance saw the return of thousands of dollars to wronged consumers. We counseled consumers on all manner of marketplace issues, spoke at meetings and took action when it needed to be taken.

As the information era came of age, demand for our services tapered off. Soaring oil prices forced the sale of our building eight years ago, and the volunteers who were the heart and soul of Northeast CONTACT found other ways to do good work.

Now, Jane and I are also finding a new avenue, one that we hope will assist consumers. Our hearty thanks go to those many volunteers I mentioned. We plan to continue our blog, https://necontact.wordpress.com. We’ll post news about scams, recalls and items we hope will be helpful; you can search the site for past columns. There will still be links to government and nonprofit agencies with resources beyond our means.

Finally, our thanks go to the people at the Bangor Daily News who’ve offered support, encouragement and the space for this column. And to those of you who have had kind words about the work we’ve done, you will remain in our thoughts.

 

You can’t avoid death and taxes, but you can dodge identity theft

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Jan. 30, 2017, at 8:25 a.m.

Last year, the Internal Revenue Service, the states and tax professionals teamed up to reduce incidents of taxpayer identity theft.


The crime occurs when a criminal steals your Social Security number and files a return in your name; the thief claims a refund to which he’s not entitled. When you file your legitimate tax return, the IRS flags it because it has already received a return in your name.

It’s believed that more diligent enforcement helped the IRS to prevent more than $180 million from going to fraudulent claimants. Now, officials are doubling down on their efforts to fight taxpayer ID theft.

The Federal Trade Commission has proclaimed the week of Jan. 30-Feb. 3 as Tax Identity Theft Week. The agency is offering a series of events to educate consumers and business people on ways they can minimize the risk of thieves stealing refunds.

At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, the FTC and Identity Theft Resource Center will hold a Twitter chat dealing with tax identity theft, ways to protect yourself and what to do if you are a victim.

A similar session is planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, about tax ID theft for service people, veterans and their families. At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, FTC and the IRS will hold a tax ID theft chat for small business people. Find a link to these and other events at www.ftc.gov and look under “Latest News.”

Income tax season is big business for high-tech criminals, so be on guard for all sorts of scams. You might get a call from someone posing as an IRS official, seeking to “verify” tax return information by phone.

Other scammers may mention news reports of tax fraud and try to trick victims into “verifying the last four digits of their Social Security number.”

Others might pretend to be from the tax preparation industry … in short, they’ll use any tactic they think might work to fool consumers.

The crooks also take aim at business people. They might call human resources professionals and ask for information found on W-2 forms; a variation of that scam has an email message bearing the name of a corporate officer seeking personal information about an employee. Some scammers have posed as providers of software to trick tax preparers.

The variations are virtually endless. The IRS lists many of the most often used tricks at its website, www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.

Many tax pros suggest filing early, thereby giving the crooks less time to file fraudulently ahead of you. Once you have filed, you can check the status of your refund at www.irs.gov/Refunds.

You also can call the IRS Identity Theft toll-free at 800-908-4490 or visit www.irs.gov/identitytheft.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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