If you were tricked into wiring money to scammers using Western Union, you may be eligible to get at least some of your money back. The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice (DOJ) came to a $586 million settlement with Western Union earlier this year. If you sent money through Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017, and lost it to a scammer, you may be eligible for a refund. Once DOJ collects the money from Western Union, it will open a process later this year called “Petition for Remission” for people to make claims. Visit www.westernunionremission.com to learn more and sign up to receive updates.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is now working with private debt collectors to recover unpaid tax debts. Scammers could attempt to capitalize on potential confusion created by this new development. If you have a long overdue tax account, the IRS will first send you a letter to inform you that it is turning your account over to a debt collector. Then you will receive a letter from the debt collector before they contact you by phone. The only way to pay your debt is electronically or by check, payable to the US Treasury. If you don’t owe overdue taxes, a tax debt collector will not contact you. If you get a call from someone claiming to be collecting overdue taxes, hang up.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Help Line has been fielding lots of calls about the “Say yes” scam. News reports have warned that a fraudster will call and ask a question to get the victim to say yes. The scammer records that affirmation to use it to authorize unwanted charges to a phone bill, utility bill, or even a stolen credit card. While many people report that they are getting calls like these followed by a hang up, we have yet to encounter any victims. If you got a call like this and answered yes, don’t panic. Be sure to always carefully review your bills and credit card statements, and immediately dispute any unauthorized charges. This is another good reason not to answer calls from unfamiliar numbers.
Fake checks are featured in many types of scams, from phony prize winnings to fake jobs. And scammers are good at making phony checks look legitimate. The scams typically involve sending victims a check, asking them to deposit it, and then when cleared, asking them to immediately wire the money to a third party. Remember, a check can take weeks to clear. Wait until you are certain, and the bank can confirm, that your check has cleared before taking further action. If you wire money and later discover that the check was fake, you’ll have to repay the bank.
Starting next April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will begin issuing Medicare cards that do not display Social Security numbers. New beneficiaries will get the modernized cards first, and then new cards will be issued to existing beneficiaries. This change presents an opening to scammers. If you get a call claiming to be from Medicare asking you to confirm your Social Security number for the new card, this is a scam! It is also a scam if you get a call claiming you have to pay for your new card. Hang up immediately.
Each year, the Federal Trade Commission releases a data book on scams as reported to the agency in the prior year. This year’s report shows that imposter scams are a serious and growing problem. These scams come in many varieties but work the same way. A scammer pretends to be someone trustworthy, like a government official or computer technician, to convince the consumer to send money. For those who lost money to this scam, the widest reported method of payment was wire transfer. And 77% of the imposter scams came through phone contact. All the more reason to screen your calls!
The Federal Trade Commission reports that the virtual child kidnapping scam has resurfaced. The scam begins with a call from someone claiming to have kidnapped a child in your family. The scammer demands money by wire transfer or prepaid card. 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. Before you send anything, contact your child or their school directly. Then you can report this fraud at ftc.gov/complaint.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) Hotline phone number is being used as part of a telephone spoofing scam. Scammers represent themselves as HHS OIG Hotline employees and can alter the appearance of the caller ID to make it seem as if the call is coming from the HHS OIG Hotline, 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). The scammer will try to get personal information that can be used to steal money from the victim’s bank account or for other fraudulent activity. Know that the HHS OIG will not use the Hotline telephone number to make outgoing calls.
Netflix customers beware ! Scammers are conducting a campaign to obtain personal and financial information from Netflix users across the country. Netflix users are receiving an email claiming to be from the company asking them to update their Netflix login information. After providing this, a second screen appears which asks users to validate their payment information. After providing their information on the fraudulent website, the Netflix customers are re-directed to the actual Netflix homepage. The phishing email looks surprisingly realistic and uses legitimate servers that were compromised, so security software may not recognize the email as a phishing attempt.
You’d think it would be simple, but choosing a light bulb can be challenging because there are so many options at the store. This week, Efficiency Maine is providing information on how to choose a bulb and calculate lighting savings if you upgrade to a high-efficiency product.
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