Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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

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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

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.”

 

 

Class Action Over The Meaning Of ‘Sale’ Means Harbor Freight Customers Get Refunds

The Consumerist

March 24, 20174:26 pm EDT
By Laura Northrup@lnorthrup

Consumers Impacted by Scams Utilizing Western Union May Be Eligible for Restitution Payments

Deadline April 3, 2017

PRESS RELEASE
03/02/2017 09:18 AM EST

Image linked to Western Union Scam Fighting Advice

 

AUGUSTA – Attorney General Janet Mills requests all Mainers who were scammed out of money and asked to utilize Western Union as a payment method to contact her office as they may be eligible for restitution payments. Under a recent settlement with the federal government consumers may be eligible for some restitution if the payments were sent between 1/1/2004 and 1/19/17.

In January, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement it made with Western Union that will require them to return $586 million dollars through a claims settlement process to consumers. Going forward, Western Union must go one step further by creating a real and strong anti-fraud program. Western Union agreed to this settlement after ignoring for years the more than 550,000 complaints it received about money transfers made for fraudulent lottery and prizes, family emergency calls – also known as the grandparent scam, advance fee loan payments, online dating scams, the more recent IRS scam, among others.

Attorney General Mills said “I ask all Mainers who have been scammed out of money and were asked to use Western Union to make these fraud-induced payments to contact my office so that we can connect them with the federal agencies managing this claims process. I realize some may be embarrassed that they fell for a scam. You are not alone. Do not be embarrassed, please take this opportunity to be reimbursed for the money you have lost.”

Under the settlement, Western Union will return $586 million dollars through a process to be determined at a later date. The company will have to train and monitor its agents so that people are protected. The company won’t be allowed to transmit a money transfer that it knows – or should know – is a fraud. It has to block money transfers to anyone who has a fraud report, make it easier for people to report fraud, give clear warnings to people who are sending money, and refund a fraud-related money transfer if the company didn’t comply with its own anti-fraud procedures. Additionally, consistent with the telemarketing sales rule, Western Union must not process a money transfer that it knows or should know is payment for a telemarketing transaction. If you ever wire money, also keep in mind that it’s illegal for a telemarketer to ask you to pay with a money transfer. Scammers love using money transfer services because once you send the money, it’s gone forever. So, if a telemarketer asks you to wire money, already you know they’re a crook.

Consumers who made payments for a scam between 1/1/2004 and 1/19/2017 may be eligible for reimbursement. Please contact the Consumer Protection Division at the Attorney General’s Office if you were scammed during this time. You will need to provide your basic contact information, approximate dates of the transaction(s), amounts of the transaction(s) and any relevant transaction identification numbers, if available. Your information will then be provided to our federal partners administering the claims process.

For this case, we prefer receiving information by email – consumer.mediation@maine.gov – but we can also be reached at (207) 626-8849 or 1-800-436-2131.

The deadline for consumers to submit this information to the Attorney General’s Office is Monday, April 3, 2017.

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. 

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 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.

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