Archive for the ‘Federal Agencies’ Category

Refunds Now Available from Amazon for Unauthorized In-App Purchases

PRESS RELEASE

Amazon.com, Inc. has begun offering refunds to consumers for unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children. More than $70 million in charges incurred between November 2011 and May 2016 may be eligible for refunds.

All eligible consumers should have received an email from Amazon. Consumers who believe they might be eligible can also:

Refund requests can be completed entirely online. Consumers do not need to call Amazon or send anything by mail to receive a refund. The deadline for submitting refund requests is May 28, 2018. Any questions about individual refunds should be directed to Amazon at 866-216-1072.

Last month, the FTC and Amazon agreed to end their litigation related to the FTC’s case, which paved the way for the refund program to begin.

 

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”

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

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.

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