Alerts & Advisories
IRS Tax Scam
The Internal Revenue Service warns senior citizens and other taxpayers to beware of an emerging scheme tempting them to file tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds.
Timeshare Resale Fraud
As a result of the current economic climate, there are timeshare owners who are desirous of selling their timeshares as soon as possible. Some owners may have concluded that their timeshares no longer suit their needs. Others may be facing foreclosure. Others may be convinced that there are buyers interested in their timeshares. And others may simply want to avoid paying maintenance and special assessment fees. Please visit the California Department of Real Estate at www.dre.ca.gov for more information.
The “Grandma Scam”
Imposters, often from foreign countries, target the elderly by posing as a grandchild in trouble and in need of cash. The caller often says that he or she has been arrested, was in a car accident or has some type of medical emergency. The caller always insists that the grandparent not tell anyone about the money transfer, which is one of the red flags. The scam is often effective because it catches seniors off guard and tugs at their heartstrings. Victims of financial elder abuse lose an estimated $2.9 billion nationwide, according to a study released by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Most victims are between the ages of 80 and 90, live alone and require some level of help with healthcare or home maintenance.
Fight back by ensuring that your friends and family members do not become victims. Explain to them how the scam works, and encourage them to be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly and wants them to wire money- especially to Mexico and Canada.
To keep your finances safe from scams, consider these tips: sweepstakes and overseas lotteries are phony; screen your calls before answering; don’t be afraid to hang up on the perpetrator; don’t let emotions cause you to react immediately to a phone call, letter or email; always check with a professional adviser. When people have been scammed once, their phone numbers and information are sold to other tricksters. Consider changing your phone number to avoid an onslaught of predatory phone calls.
It Looks Official...
Our office routinely receives complaints regarding what appear to be "official" mailings. These solicitations arrive in the mail in envelopes which mimic official government mailings and contain "invoices" or "qualification" notices. Although the entire solicitation is made to look like an official government mailing, the mailings are usually advertisements designed to trick the consumer into buying or paying for services. Please read these solicitations very carefully - especially the FINE PRINT - where you might find the disclaimer "this is not a government agency." If you receive a such a mailing, be aware that you are not dealing with a government agency and are not required to pay for the offered service.
Property Tax Scam
Consumers continue to report receiving official-looking forms by mail with the County Assessor's ID No. and the address of their real property along with the current assessed value of the property. The form states that for a "processing fee," paid by a "due date," the citizen's property can be "reassessed." The letter also states that, if the fee is not received by the due date, a "late fee" will be applied. Be advised, any real-property owner can request a reassessment without charge from our County Assessor's office.
Jury Duty Scam
The public needs to be aware that individuals identifying themselves as U.S. court employees have been telephonically contacting citizens and advising them that they have been selected for jury duty. These individuals ask to verify names and Social Security numbers, then ask for credit card numbers. If the request is refused, citizens are then threatened with fines. The judicial system will never contact people telephonically and ask for personal information such as your Social Security number, date of birth or credit card numbers. If you receive one of these phone calls, do not provide any personal or confidential information to these individuals. This is an attempt to steal or to use your identity by obtaining your name, Social Security number and potentially to apply for credit or credit cards or other loans in your name. It is an attempt to defraud you.
Filing an Identity Theft Police Report Can Save you Money
California typically leads the nation when it comes to privacy protection laws. California law, Penal Code section 530.6, allows California residents who believe they have been victimized by financial fraud and identity theft to request a police report -- regardless of whether the crime was committed in the victim’s location or somewhere else in the country. A helpful Identity Theft Victim Checklist is available from the California Department of Consumer Affairs' Office of Privacy Protection. There is also a Guide for Victims of Criminal Identity Theft. The California Office of Privacy Protection provides information, advocacy, training, and "best practice" guidelines for consumers, businesses and other organizations. If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement office and make a report.
Taking time to learn about a charity before you donate can go a long way to making sure that the nonprofit organization and cause match your intentions. However, researching charities can be daunting when you consider that there are more than 700,000 federally recognized nonprofit organizations - nearly 90,000 of them in California - and no official "seal of approval" issued. The "Charities Search" section of California Attorney General's Web site offers links to GuideStar's information on California charities, including many charities' filings with the IRS, Form 990. The database is searchable by name, location, income range, category or identification number.
Free Credit Report
The Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's largest consumer protection agency, has prepared a brochure, “Your Access to Free Credit Reports”, explaining your rights and how to order a free annual credit report. A credit report contains information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.
SPAM SCAM - Spoofing You Out of Personal Info
Consumers should be on the alert for sophisticated "spoof" e-mails that trick unwary and unsuspecting Internet users into giving personal information that can be used to drain bank accounts, fraudulently get credit cards and commit other crimes. The scam is commonly called "brand spoofing" or "phishing" because the spam mail sent uses familiar or legitimate-sounding names of companies to gain personal information. This scam capitalizes on names that are close to the real one. A recent example is instead of the real Earthlink.net, the spam mail used an URL like www.earthlinkservice.com. Small and large companies have been spoofed, such as Bank of America, Best Buy, PayPal and First Union Bank. Consumers may be sent e-mails that seemingly come from a company with which they've done business or be sent by hyperlink to a phony web site - designed even to look like the legitimate business web site. One victim reported getting a seemingly authentic e-mail from what appeared to be his Internet Service Provider telling him his credit card had expired and new information was needed. He was asked to provide a credit card number and to give his bank account number and ATM PIN number.