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Tag Archive | "Federal Trade Commission"

Beware IRS impersonation scams 

As tax season begins, the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office is receiving numerous reports of telephone calls from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. Although these scams take many different forms, the most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try to steal your money. They may try to steal your identity too. 

Be wary if you get an out-of-the-blue phone call or automated message from someone who claims to be from the IRS. Sometimes they say you owe money and must pay right away. Other times they say you are owed a refund and ask for your bank account information over the phone. Don’t fall for it. Here are several tips that will help you avoid becoming a scam victim. 

The real IRS will NOT: 

  • Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail. 
  • Demand tax payment and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe. 
  • Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For example, demand that you pay with a prepaid debit card. 
  • Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone. 
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other agencies to arrest you without paying. 
  • Threaten you with a lawsuit. 

If you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do: 

  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident. 
  • You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report. 

If you think you may owe taxes: 

  • Ask for a call back number and an employee badge number. 
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you. 

Email Scams: 

In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, bogus email that claims to come from the IRS. These scams often use fake refunds, phony tax bills, or threats of an audit. Many scammers even use what appears to be an official IRS logo at the top of their email. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. Don’t be fooled! The scammer’s goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity. 

If you get a phishing email, the IRS offers this advice: 

  • Don’t reply to the message. 
  • Don’t give out your personal or financial information. 
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it. 

Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer. 

Posted in News, Tax TimeComments (0)

Local business reports spoofing activity


By Judy Reed

If you get a phone call from a local number and the caller ID says it’s White Creek Lumber or another local business, be sure it’s them before giving out any personal information.

According to Jane Gosling, of White Creek Lumber, a customer called them recently to let them know the customer had received a phone call and the caller ID showed it as White Creek Lumber—but it wasn’t. Instead, it was someone saying it was their last chance to get a lower rate on their credit card. 

The customer hung up and didn’t give out any information, which is the best thing to do, other than letting it go to voicemail.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “spoofing” occurs when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally. U.S. law and FCC rules prohibit most types of spoofing.

How does spoofing work?

Caller ID lets consumers avoid unwanted phone calls by displaying caller names and phone numbers, but the caller ID feature is sometimes manipulated by spoofers who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or even the government.

Go to https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/spoofing-and-caller-id and scroll down the page to where it says, “How do I file a complaint on suspected spoofing?” and click on “file a complaint.”

You can also print out the Caller ID and Spoofing guide on the same page.

The Federal Trade Commission also takes reports on spoofing. You can visit https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1 to file a complaint. The FTC then takes the data and compiles and publishes it each day at https://www.ftc.gov/site-information/open-government/data-sets/do-not-call-data to help those working on call blocking technology.

However, if you get a phone call from an 877 number that says it’s the FTC, it’s not. Don’t answer it. Scammers have also been spoofing their number. While the FTC may sometimes call you back about a report, they will not use that 877 number, and they will never ask for sensitive information, such as your bank account or social security number. 

Posted in NewsComments (0)

BBB Alert: IRS tax collection methods to change


The IRS will be hiring private collection companies to collect taxes in difficult cases.

The BBB is alerting consumers that the IRS is now required to use private debt collection companies to collect «inactive tax receivables.»

These include cases where the IRS can’t locate the taxpayer and more than a year has passed without interaction with the taxpayer for purposes of furthering the collection.

The law requires that IRS begin entering into agreements within three months. This provision was in the recent highway funding bill that Congress passed and the President signed into law.

The new law imposes specific reporting requirements on the IRS including an annual report of the number and amount of tax receivables provided to collection contractors, total amounts collected, and collection costs incurred by the IRS.

Also required is a report every two years of an independent evaluation of each private debt collection performance and a measurement plan that compares the best practices used by private debt collectors with those used by the IRS.

The timing of this new law follows a recent Federal Trade Commission crackdown on collections agencies related to questionable tactics used by some collectors.

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Consumers Energy scam

In December 2014, BBB began hearing from consumers who have received calls from someone claiming to be from the “Disconnect Department” of Consumer Energy. The caller stated the consumer was behind on their Consumers Energy bill and that they needed to make payment immediately to avoid disconnection. The company instructs the consumer to purchase green dot money cards for a specific amount due and then to call back once the cards have been purchased. The company provides generic contact names such as Mr. Johnson and Mr. Brown.

BBB contacted Consumers Energy, and they are aware of the scam.  They advised that they do not perform collection in this way and they do not accept payment via green dot money card.  Consumers Energy stated that there is a process that takes place when an account is delinquent:

• Bill is sent to consumer

• If payment not received, second bill is sent to consumer

• If payment is not received, shut-off notice sent to consumer outlining amount due and shut-off date

•If payment is not received, phone call made to consumer

• If payment is not received, service is disconnected

The BBB contacted the company making the calls, and the phone was answered PNG.  When asked what company was reached, we were informed we reached PNG Electric Company. BBB then stated we were trying to reach Consumers Energy and we were informed that they represent Consumers Energy and that we reached the Disconnection Department. When we asked where the company was located, the call was disconnected. During the BBB phone calls to the company, it sounded like a boiler room operations; we could hear several other conversations in the background. BBB has been unable to determine the true identity of the company or individuals making the calls or identify where they are located.

If you receive a call as described above, we suggest you report it to the BBB and the Federal Trade Commission.

Be sure to always research any organization you are considering doing business with by visiting www.bbb.org/western-michigan!

Posted in BusinessComments (0)

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