Archive for the ‘Federal Agencies’ Category

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.

FCC Plan To Let Phone Companies Block More Annoying Robocalls Moves Forward

The Consumerist (03/23/17) details FCC proposal to protect consumers from robocalls.

Click image to read the article

What’s in the proposal?

• Do Not Originate: Phone number owners — like the IRS — can put their numbers on a “do not originate” list, and calls spoofing a number on the list can be blocked.
• Non-existent numbers: Carriers will also be allowed to block calls coming from incomplete or invalid phone numbers (i.e. ones that don’t and can’t exist).
• How to deal with international calls: A huge number of spam and scam robocalls initiate overseas. The FCC is seeking input on the best way to address those calls going forward.

Might this be the end of phone spoofing?

From The Consumerist:

In just a few short years, a proliferation of cheap tech and better broadband speeds around the globe have taken robocalls from an old-school inconvenience of landlines to an all-out digital scourge. In their remarks at today’s open meeting, FCC commissioners cited studies finding that American consumers get hit with an average of 2.2 to 2.4 billion illegal robocalls per month. Run the math, and that works out to an average of at least 7 illegal robocalls per month to every single American.

And scam robocalls proliferate because they work: Vulnerable consumers, particularly the elderly, get taken in to the tune of roughly $350 million per year. According to one study published late last year, commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in her remarks, a whopping 13% of all American adults have been victim to some kind of phone scam. And of those, half — so basically 7% of the U.S. population — were taken for between $100 and $10,000.

“Illegal robocalls are not just a dinner-table annoyance,” Clyburn said, when she explained the economic impact. “This calls for a multi-pronged, high-powered approach” in which the FCC, industry, and consumer-empowering tools can all work together.

Calls asking “Can you hear me now?” – FTC Scam Alert

Your phone rings and the caller ID shows a number you don’t know. You answer it anyway and hear, “Can you hear me now?” It’s a pre-recorded robocall – even though it sounds like a real person – and it’s illegal. We’ve heard from hundreds of people who have gotten calls like this.

Here’s what to do if you get a call from someone you don’t recognize asking, “Can you hear me?”:

  • Don’t respond, just hang up. If you get a call, don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other number to be removed from the list. If you respond in any way, it will probably just lead to more robocalls – and they’re likely to be scams.
  • Contact your phone provider. Ask your phone provider what services they provide to block unwanted calls.
  • Put your phone number on the Do Not Call registry. Access the registry online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Callers who don’t respect the Do Not Call rules are more likely to be crooks.
  • File a complaint with the FTC. Report the experience online or call 1-877-382-4357.

Senior Scam Prevention and Aging Committee Fraud Book

The book is available on line or anyone can call the Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) to request a free hard copy.

Access online copy by clicking image

 

Senator Collins’ office has also sent copies to senior centers and community centers across the state.

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 avoid getting hit with a big fee to cash tax refund checks

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Feb. 06, 2017, at 8:07 a.m.
The Internal Revenue Service or IRS recommends that anyone earning $54,000 or less find out more about the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Last year 27 million Americans qualified, and the EITC average was more than $2,455. This year, officials say even more taxpayers will qualify.

As we’ve written earlier, IRS officials will be scrutinizing reviews to curb fraud; that will slow the pace of returns for those claiming EITC and the Additional Child Tax Credit. Once those refunds do arrive, some consumers will face hard choices about cashing those refund checks.

Those are consumers who do not regularly use a bank or credit union. Often referred to as “the unbanked,” these consumers use a variety of alternative methods to pay monthly bills and buy goods in other than brick-and-mortar stores.

In doing so, they rack up on average more than $2,400 per year in interest charges. Financial advisers say much of that interest burden could be reduced or eliminated.

Many of those advisers suggest turning first to local banks and credit unions. Responding to competition from multi-state banks, Maine-based financial institutions have been looking for ways to attract customers who until recently may have avoided traditional banks or credit unions.

“The playing field has expanded as far as low or no-cost banking services go,” David Leach, adjunct professor of banking at the University of Maine at Augusta, said. “I think the challenge for policy makers and politicians is to get the word out, through social service agencies and through governmental regulatory agencies, that there are low- and no-cost banking services.”

Lloyd Lafountain III is superintendent of banking for the state of Maine. He said Maine-based financial institutions combine the latest technologies with local knowledge.

“Many offer low-cost accounts, and consumers can avoid overdraft fees by not using paper checks and not opting into overdraft protection programs,” he said.

Check-cashing outlets, pawnshops and payday loans are costly substitutes for a bank or credit union. Federal and state officials have launched efforts over the years to attract consumers to the world of traditional banking. Still, millions of Americans find themselves using short-term, high-cost solutions to get past the next round of bills.

A lot of those quick-fix solutions are found on the internet, but many are less than economical. Few of them offer the kinds of customer service that face-to-face relationships can provide.

Tips on opening a low-cost account can be found online at maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions/consumer/saveandprotectyourmoney.pdf.

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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