September 2017 - Guide for seniors (2017/10/12)



guideforseniors.pdf
 

 

 

 

 

 

 



August 2017 Identity Theft (2017/08/23)

 



August 2017 Phone Calls Scam (1) (2017/08/04)

 



August 2017 Phone Calls Scam (2) (2017/08/04)

 



July 2017 Identity Theft (2017/07/20)

 

 



April 2015 Frauds/Scams (2017/04/15)



March 2017 Fraud (2017/03/15)

 
 
MARCH TIP OF THE MONTH
 
FTC@100 Banner
 
FTC, partners promote efforts to protect consumers from fraud, identity theft and other consumer issues
The Federal Trade Commission and more than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations, will participate in the 19th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held March 5-11, 2017. NCPW is a nationally coordinated campaign to inform Americans of their consumer rights while providing them access to free consumer-related resources.
Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen, who will participate in the FTC’s military Twitter chat on March 9, 2017, noted her anticipation for this year’s NCPW, highlighting her focus on the military community. She also stressed the importance of the campaign's website, NCPW.gov, which hosts a variety of resources for consumers and their advocates on topics that can help consumers make informed buying decisions and avoid scams.
“I am excited to work with our NCPW partners as we protect all consumers. I’m going to personally reach out to the military community online, an audience that is targeted by scammers too often,” said Ohlhausen. “Educating people through free resources and tools, such as those available on NCPW.gov, is one of the most effective ways we can prevent consumer harm.”
Since its creation, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has focused agency resources and national experts on safeguarding American identities, financial records and other elements related to consumer activity.
“Protecting and educating consumers are top priorities for the FTC,” said Thomas Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The tools available at NCPW.gov can help consumer advocates get the word out about NCPW in their community through local press and social media.”
Along with the Bureau of Consumer Protection, the Bureau of Competition supports the FTC’s consumer protection mission by protecting the competitive process, which can deliver lower prices, enhance innovation, and increase quality and choice for consumers.
FACEBOOK LIVE CHAT:
FTC staff will co-host a Facebook live video stream with USA.gov on March 7, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. ET. Staff will answer questions for 15 minutes about “Ten Things You Can Do To Avoid Fraud.”
To participate in English, follow USA.gov and FTC on Facebook. Ask your questions via livestream beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on March 7.
TWITTER CHAT:
FTC staff will host a Twitter chat with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (@CTDCP) to answer consumer questions on March 8, 2017 beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. Staff will answer questions for an hour on debt, identity theft, online safety, and other consumer protection topics. To participate in English, follow @FTC, @milconsumer and Tweet questions with the hashtag #NCPW2017. For Spanish, follow @LaFTC and use #FTCcharla.
FTC will host an additional Twitter chat with the Colorado Attorney General’s office (@StopFraudCo) to answer consumer questions on March 9, 2017 beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Staff will answer questions for an hour on tax identity theft and imposter scams. To participate in English, follow @FTC, @milconsumer@MOhlhausenFTC and Tweet questions with the hashtag #NCPW2017. For Spanish, follow @LaFTC and use #FTCcharla.
During NCPW, partners and hundreds of community groups across the country host events to promote general consumer education or highlight a specific issue. For more information on National Consumer Protection Week, visit NCPW.gov and subscribe to the blog.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:                                      
Nicole Jones,
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2565
STAFF CONTACT:                                       
Cristina Miranda,
Bureau of Consumer Protection

202-326-2669
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February 2017 Phishing Scam (2017/02/15)

 
 
FEBRUARY TIP OF THE MONTH
Dangerous W-2 Phishing Scam Evolving; Targeting Schools,
Restaurants,Hospitals, Tribal Groups and Others IR-2017-20,
Feb. 2, 2017 WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service,
state tax agencies and the tax industry issued an urgent alert
today to all employers that the Form W-2 email phishing scam
 has evolved beyond the corporate world and is spreading to
other sectors,including school districts, tribal organizations
and nonprofits.In a related development, the W-2 scammers
are coupling their efforts to steal employee W-2 information
with an older scheme on wire transfers that is victimizing
some organizations twice.“This is one of the most dangerous
email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result
in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use
to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns.
We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme,’’
said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. When employers
report W-2 thefts immediately to the IRS, the agency can take
steps to help protect employees from tax-relatedidentity theft.
The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry, working
together as the Security Summit, have enacted numerous
safeguards in 2016 and 2017 to identify fraudulent returns
filed through scams like this. As the Summit partners make
progress,cybercriminals need more data to mimic real tax
returns.Here’s how the scam works: Cybercriminals use
various spoofing techniques to disguise an email to make it
appear as if it is froman organization executive. The email is
sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources
departments, requesting a list of allemployees and their
Forms W-2. This scam is sometimes referred to as business
email compromise (BEC) or business emailspoofing (BES).
The Security Summit partners urge all employers to be vigilant.
The W-2 scam, which first appeared last year, is circulating
earlier inthe tax season and to a broader cross-section of
organizations, including school districts, tribal casinos, chain
restaurants,temporary staffing agencies, healthcare and
shipping and freight. Those businesses that received the
scam email last year also arereportedly receiving it again this
year.Security Summit partners warned of this scam’s
reappearance last week but have seen an upswing in reports
in recent days.New Twist to W-2 Scam: Companies Also
Being Asked to Wire MoneyIn the latest twist, the
cybercriminal follows up with an “executive” email to the
payroll or comptroller and asks that a wire transferalso be
made to a certain account. Although not tax related, the wire
transfer scam is being coupled with the W-2 scam email, and
some companies have lost both employees’ W-2s and
thousands of dollars due to wire transfers.The IRS, states
and tax industry urge all employers to share information with
 their payroll, finance and human resources employeesabout
this W-2 and wire transfer scam. Employers should consider
creating an internal policy, if one is lacking, on the distribution
ofemployee W-2 information and conducting wire transfers.
Steps Employers Can Take If They See the W-2 Scam
Organizations receiving a W-2 scam email should forward it
to phishing@irs.gov and place “W2 Scam” in the subject line.
Organizations that receive the scams or fall victim to them
should file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint
Center (IC3,)operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Employees whose Forms W-2 have been stolen should review
 the recommended actions by the Federal Trade Commission
atwww.identitytheft.gov or the IRS at www.irs.gov/identitytheft.Employees should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if the employee’s
own tax return rejects because of a duplicate SocialSecurity
number or if instructed to do so by the IRS.The W-2 scam is
 just one of several new variations that have appeared in the
past year that focus on the large-scale thefts ofsensitive tax
information from tax preparers, businesses and payroll
companies. Individual taxpayers also can be targets of
phishingscams, but cybercriminals seem to have evolved
their tactics to focus on mass data thefts.Be Safe OnlineIn
addition to avoiding email scams during the tax season,
taxpayers and tax preparers should be leery of using search
engines tofind technical help with taxes or tax software.
Selecting the wrong “tech support” link could lead to a loss of
data or an infectedcomputer. Also, software “tech support”
will not call users randomly. This is a scam.Taxpayers
searching for a paid tax professional for tax help can use the
IRS Choosing a Tax Professional lookup tool or if taxpayers
need free help can review the Free Tax Return Preparation
Programs. Taxpayers searching for tax software can use Free
File,which offers 12 brand-name products for free, at
www.irs.gov/freefile. Taxpayer or tax preparers looking for
tech support for theirsoftware products should go directly
to the provider’s web page.Tax professionals also should
beware of ongoing scams related to IRS e-Services. Thieves
 are trying to use IRS efforts to make eServicesmore secure
to send emails asking e-Services users to update their
accounts. Their objective is to steal e-Services users’
credentials to access these important services
 


January Tip of the Month
 
 
 
 
As tax season begins, avoid these 5 common scams
 
 
To view this email as a web page, click here.
 
STRAIGHT TALK FROM THE MONEY EDITOR
January is the official start of "tax-scam season." The goal of these con artists is to fool and defraud taxpayers — in other words, to scare you into giving them your money, your bank account information and your Social Security number. They do it by using phone scams or a sophisticated e-mail trick called phishing. In a phishing scam, the scammer sends an e-mail that looks and sounds very real. The e-mail of choice during tax season looks as if it comes right from the Internal Revenue Service.  
The IRS has made it clear that agents will never call you as their first contact about a tax issue. So if someone calls you and says they're the IRS, and you have not already received an official notification in the mail, just hang up on the fraudster. If you do receive a letter from the IRS, it's in your best interest to contact the agency directly (800-829-1040) to confirm the issue is real. For more cool stuff like this, follow me on Twitter @jimpavia.
 
Jim Pavia
Money Editor

@jimpavia
 

DECEMBER TIP OF THE MONTH

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NOVEMBER TIP OF THE MONTH
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October Tip of the Month
 
HIGH YIELD INVESTMENT PROGRAMS
The internet is awash in so-called "high-yield investment programs" or "HYIPs".  These are unregistered investments typically run by unlicensed individuals - and they are often frauds.  The hallmark of an HYIP scam is the promise of incredible returns at little or no risk to the investor.  A HYIP website might promise annual (or even monthly, weekly, or daily) returns of 30 or 40 percent - or more.  Some of these scams may use the term "prime bank" program.  If you are approached online to invest in one of these, you should exercise extreme caution - it is likely a fraud.
 
September Tip of the Month


 

 
 
 
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Print the PDF from your browserView Online
Sudent Loan Scams
Are you struggling to pay off your student loans? According to the Federal Trade Commission, debt relief companies are luring unsuspecting graduates with promises of student loan forgiveness or debt reduction. These companies will say they can help reduce your monthly payment or get your loans forgiven after receiving an upfront fee. Companies target students by phone or text, on the radio and online through featured ads promising relief through government programs or by disputing loans. Students who pay these companies frequently don't get their student loans forgiven or reduced. Often at best, the companies are able to put loans into deferment while the loan's interest keeps growing. At worst, students are defrauded out of thousands of dollars.
Before you pay a debt relief company, watch out for these signs of a scam:
  • You shouldn't have to pay an up-front fee. If you pay to reduce or eliminate your student loan debt, you will most likely not get any help or your money back.
  • Before scammers know the details of your situation, they might promise to dissolve your loans through a loan forgiveness program or by disputing the loans. However, no one can promise total loan forgiveness.
  • Only scammers will tell you to stop paying your student loans. Sometimes scammers will tell you not to speak with your loan servicer so the company can negotiate a better settlement for you. However, not paying student loans can damage your credit, and your loan balances could balloon. There's no guarantee the company will be able to get a settlement.
  • A U.S. Department of Education seal does not mean a company is legitimate. Scammers typically use official-looking names, seals and logos, and they tell you they have special access to certain repayment plans, new federal loan consolidations or loan forgiveness programs. If you have federal loans, go to the U.S. Department of Education directly at www.StudentAid.ed.gov to find out what options are available to you.
  • To get you to act fast, scammers tell you that you could miss qualifying for repayment plans, loan consolidations or loan forgiveness programs if you don't sign up right away. Don't be rushed into a bad decision. You have time to check out your options.
  • Some companies may tell you they can lower your monthly payments or interest rate by combining your federal and private student loans. However, consolidating federal and private loans comes with a cost. Doing so eliminates many benefits and protections offered by federal loans.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state's clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. Consumers who believe fraud has taken place visit FreshFromFlorida.com or contact the department at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352), 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner
 
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July Tip of the Month

 
 
The public is bombarded with ads for persons and firms offering to provide financial services.  While many are reputable, some are not. To protect yourself please follow some simple common sense rules.
 
RULE #1 - If it sounds too good to be true it is!!!  Do not fall for offers that provide unrealistic rates of return. Think Bernard Madoff. 
 
RULE#2 - Understand exactly what you are investing in. Do not hesitate to ask questions.  If you don't understand what you are investing your hard earned money in DON'T invest.
 
RULE#3 - Several organizations provide information on financial advisors/brokers as it relates to problems they may have had and their qualifications. Some of these organizations are: The Securities and Exchange Commissionwww.advisorinfo.sec.gov, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority www.finra.org/brokercheck and The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau www.consumerfiance.gov/about.us/blog/know-your-financial-advisor .


 
June Tip of the Month

Tips To Prevent Burglaries:
 
1. Forget Facebook-Resist posting pictures of your vacation on social media while you are away.
 
2. You can't hide-Crooks know all the "secret" places, so forget about hiding your keys around the house. Instead ask a trusted friend or neighbor to keep a key.
 
3. Don't advertise big buys-An empty computer or television carton left on the curb is a flag to crooks. Bring box to recycle center or cut it up.
 
4. Stay well-trimmed- Overgrown shrubbery provides cover for thieves. Keep the front of your house well lit and guard access to your backyard.
 
5. Mail-Stop your mail. If the post office places a mail hold notice in your box for mail personnel to skip box remove notice. Thieves can also see it. 
 
6. Lights-Insure lights are on timers. Nothing screams empty house more than complete darkness.
 
May Tip of the Month
 
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Print the PDF from your browserView Online
High School Diploma Scams The Federal Trade Commission has filed charges against operators of online "high schools" that claim to be legitimate, but are alleged to be little more than diploma mills charging anywhere from $135 to $349 for a worthless certificate. The operations bought a number of website names designed to look like legitimate online high schools using terms like "GED" and "GED online" to lure individuals to their the bogus sites. Once consumers arrive at the schools' sites, they are met with messages that imply that the diplomas offered by the defendants are equivalent to an actual high school diploma. If a program says you can earn your diploma with just "life experience," it's almost certainly a scam.
The operators of the online and correspondence schools tap a market of thousands of students who didn?t graduate from traditional high schools, but find they need a diploma to get employed or find a better job.
If you didn't graduate from high school, but want to get your diploma, you can get what is called a "high school equivalency diploma" or "high school equivalency credential." You earn them by taking a test or enrolling in programs to earn class credit. You might have heard of the GED test. That's one way to get your equivalency diploma, but there are other tests and programs to choose from, depending on where you live.
Many people earn a high school equivalency diploma by taking a test. Tests offer some flexibility, allowing you to study on your own time and at your own pace. However, you have to take them at a set time and place and the tests can be challenging. Most states will accept some credits from online classes, but typically only a few. Legitimate online courses will require you to do real class work, not just take a test. If an online class does not require substantial reading, writing, quizzes and tests, or offers coursework you can finish in a day, it's not the real thing.
Signs of a High School Diploma Scam
According to the FTC, the following are some red flags that you've come across a scam: 
You Can Get the Diploma From Home, ASAP
No classes? No in-person test? All online? That's a scam. Legitimate programs with classes for credit mean you'll invest weeks or months of time. And real high school equivalency tests are offered at specific days and times, not on-demand. Most people don't pass without really studying.
You Have to Pay for a Diploma
No legitimate high school equivalency program lets you take a test or classes for free, then charges you for the diploma. You might pay for classes or testing, but you shouldn't have to pay for the diploma itself.
They Claim to be Affiliated With the Federal Government
The federal government doesn't offer programs for earning high school diplomas. Legitimate tests or programs are approved by your state. To find out what tests are accepted and recognized by Florida's education standards, contact the Florida Department of Education at fldoe.org or call (877) 352-4331.
For additional information, or if you feel that you've become a victim of a diploma scam, contact the department at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352), 1?800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español, or visit 800helpfla.com.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner


 
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April Tip of the Month


 

U.S. Department of Justice

 

 
You are subscribed to Justice News for the U.S. Department of Justice. This information has recently been updated with the following: 
03/31/2016 12:00 AM EDT
 
With tax season in full swing, the Justice Department urged the public today to avoid dishonest tax-return preparers who fleece their customers and illegally drain the U.S. Treasury. Noting that every taxpayer is ultimately responsible for the contents of his or her own return, Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Tax Division also warned the public to be wary of anyone who guarantees a refund or who claims to sell a sure-fire way to reduce your taxes.

 

March Tip of the Month

Florida Consumer E-Newsletter

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National Consumer Protection Week is a coordinated campaign that encourages people to learn about their consumer rights and to make better-informed decisions. NCPW is also an opportunity to address a particularly troubling and challenging consumer protection issue, identity theft.
Identity theft occurs when an individual's personal information, such as their name, Social Security number or credit card number is used without their consent to commit fraud and other crimes. Identity thieves commonly use the phone, postal mail, email and the Internet to trick unsuspecting consumers into giving out personal information.
Many victims of identity theft are unaware that their information has been compromised until they are denied credit or sent a bill for purchases they did not make. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida has the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints in the nation.
Minimize Your Risk of Becoming a Victim
  • Prevent identity theft by safeguarding your information. Shred financial documents and paperwork, protect your Social Security number, never click on links sent in unsolicited emails and keep your personal information in a safe place.
  • Never give out personal information unless you are certain you know who you're dealing with or you initiated the contact.
  • Order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, and review them for discrepancies, such as accounts that you're unaware of or inaccuracies of your information.
Child Identity Theft
Children comprise the fastest-growing segment of identity theft victims. Identity thieves target young victims for two main reasons:
  • Children have clean credit records, making it easy for the criminal to create new accounts.
  • Most parents don't think to check their children's credit histories, allowing the crime to go undetected for years. Many cases of child identity theft aren't discovered until the child applies for a loan or their first job.
The Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act enables parents and guardians to create and freeze credit records for their children, effectively blocking thieves from using their personal information. For more information about placing a freeze on your child's credit, visit FreshFromFlorida.com/ProtectYourChild.
For additional information, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at www.800helpfla.com or by call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español.
 
February Tip of the Month
 

 

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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Tax-Related Identity Theft

Tax Fraud Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone steals your Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund. You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN, or the IRS may send you a letter saying they have identified a suspicious return using your SSN. 
Know the Warning Signs
Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or your tax professional if:

 

  • More than one tax return filed within one year, using your SSN.
  • You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.

Steps to Take if You Become a Victim
If you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends these steps:

 

  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov.
  • Contact your financial institutions, and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.
  • Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:

If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:
 

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided or, if instructed, go to IDVerify.irs.gov.
  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your efiled return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
  • If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, call 1–800–908–4490. They have specialized teams that can assist with tax-releated identity theft.

For additional information, contact the department at 1–800–HELP–FLA (435-7352), 1–800–FL–AYUDA (352-9832) en Español, or visit 800helpfla.com.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner


February Tip of the Month

 

News Banner


For Immediate Release

Contact:
February 11, 2016 Brian R. Stalnaker, Deputy U.S. Marshal
Eastern District of Virginia - Richmond (804) 545-8522
 
U.S. Marshals Warn of Phone Scams
 

Richmond, VA – The U.S. Marshals Service is warning the public today of a telephone scam involving a man posing as a U.S. Marshal. The man reportedly identifies himself as a U.S. Marshal while calling victims to advise that he or she has missed federal grand jury but can avoid arrest by paying a fine immediately.

There are several reported incidents of this scam taking place in Hampton Roads. The Marshals Service became aware of the scam after receiving several calls from alert citizens in the Norfolk, Virginia area.

“This scam has been replicated in other cities in the state and around the country, and we want the public to be aware of this criminal activity”, stated U.S. Marshal of the Eastern District of Virginia Robert Mathieson. The U.S. Marshals Service is a federal law enforcement agency and does not seek payment of fines or fees via the telephone for individuals.

The U.S. Marshals Service urges individuals not to divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers and highly recommends the public report similar crimes to the FBI or their local police or Sheriff’s office if they are the victims of fraud. For internet related fraud, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center can be contacted at www.ic3.gov.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at http://www.usmarshals.gov.

####

America’s Oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency


 
 
 
January Tip of the Month
 
Fraud involving IRS impersonators spikes during tax season. Please remember:
 
1.) The IRS NEVER asks for personal or financial information via email, text, or social media, and it will NEVER contact you by phone to demand payment. Report suspicious email to https://www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing.
 
2.) The IRS will NEVER ask for credit card numbers over the phone, require payment without allowing you to question it or appeal, or threaten you with arrest for nonpayment.
 
Report fraud to the IRS at 800-366-4484 and at https://www.treasury.gov/tiga/contact_report_scam.shtml
 
Happy New Year from Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers. Emoji
 
 
 
 
 
December Tip of the Month
 
ELDER FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION
 
Financial exploitation occurs when a person misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult for his/her own personal benefit.  This frequently occurs without the explicit knowledge or consent of a senior or disabled adult,  depriving him/her of vital financial resources for his/her personal needs.
 
Assets are commonly taken via forms of deception,  false pretenses,  coercion,  harassment,  duress and threats. 
 
If you, or someone you know, has been the victim of financial exploitation the following are resources to both obtain information about financial exploitation and also report it.
 
Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. (www.stopfraud.gov/report.html
 
National Center on Elder Abuse. (www.ncea.aoa.gov click on Stop Abuse)
 
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans. (www.consumerfinance.gov/older-americans
 
 
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

 
Charities depend on the generosity of donors to support them for various causes and purposes. Many charitableBeware of Charity Scams organizations use your donations wisely; however, some may misrepresent their fundraising intentions or solicit for phony causes. Keep these tips in mind before making a donation.
Watch out for Scams
Scammers take advantage of people by pretending to be a real charity in order to commit fraud. Frequently, bogus charities will exploit a recent natural disaster or tragedy, promising to use the donations to aid victims. It is important not to judge a charity solely on its name. Many organizations may use names similar to well–known charities and organizations.
Check out a Charity before Donating
Ask the charity or organization why it is asking for donations and what purpose will be served. Florida law gives the prospective donor the right to request and receive a copy of a charity’s financial report before donating. You can also visit our online Gift Givers’ Guide at 800helpfla.com to view a charity's financial information and current registration status, or call 1–800–HELP–FLA (435-7352). Be aware that many telephone appeals for funds are made by paid solicitors, not volunteers. The solicitors often work for a for–profit firm hired by the organization. Telemarketing is expensive and may entail substantial fundraising costs. Ask the solicitor what portion of your donation will be retained by the charity.
Avoid High Pressure Tactics
Some solicitors use high-pressure tactics and may even offer to send a "runner" to pick up your money immediatley. Don’t feel forced to make a quick decision without getting all the information that you need to make an informed decision. Reputable charities and organizations are just as happy to receive your donation tomorrow as today. If you decide to make a donation, never send cash. Typically, it is best to pay by check, made payable to the charity itself, not to the solicitor. If you decide to make a donation online, look for indicators that the site is secure, such as a URL that begins with "https:" (the "s" stands for secure).
Keep Good Records
Always obtain and save a printed copy of your donation or a receipt showing the amount of the contribution. Not all organizations soliciting in the name of benevolence are true charities eligible to receive tax–deductible contributions. If this is important to you, ask about the organization’s federal and state eligibility for receiving tax deductible donations. Typically, such donations fall under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).
All charities soliciting within the state of Florida (excluding religious, educational, political and governmental agencies) are required to register and file financial information with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. If a professional solicitor is requesting a donation on behalf of a charity, the solicitor also must be registered with the department and should be able to provide you with their registration number. Visit our online Gift Givers’ Guide at 800helpfla.com to view a charity's financial information and current registration status, or call 1–800–HELP–FLA (435-7352).
For additional information, to verify a charity’s registration or financial status, or to file a complaint, contact the department at 1–800–HELP–FLA (435-7352), 1–800–FL–AYUDA (352-9832) en Español, or visit 800helpfla.com.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner
 
October Tip of the Month
 
An excellent source of information about cyber security can be found at www.secureflorida.org. This information is provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Office of Statewide Intelligence and provides information about internet safety and awareness. In addition to obtaining information citizens may sign up to receive a monthly newsletter, The Beacon. Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers encourages the public to utilize this source of cyber and internet information.
 
September Tip of the Month
 
Jury Duty Scam
 

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MARTIN COUNTY — Martin County Sheriff’s officials Tuesday are warning residents of a jury duty scam after an elderly woman was defrauded of $11,000 last week.

A 77-year-old Hobe Sound woman told deputies on Aug. 26 a man claiming to be “an officer of the court” told her she had two arrest warrants for missing jury duty, records show.

The caller told her that she could satisfy the warrants by paying a fine.

The woman said she followed the caller’s instructions by going to a Winn-Dixie and purchasing 22 rechargeable money cards worth over $11,000. She then gave the caller the pin from each card and was told to mail the cards and purchase receipts in two manila envelopes addressed to Paul Clemons at the Martin County Courthouse, records show.

After she told a friend what happened, she was told to call the sheriff’s office.

No one named Paul Clemons is listed on the Martin County Clerk of Circuit Court directory.

Deputies say the fraud attempt is targeted at the elderly, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Christine Christofek.

Deputies say callers posing as law enforcement will ask victims for personal information before saying an arrest warrant was issued for missing jury duty.

The caller tells victims the only way to avoid being arrested is to pay a fine by cash, credit card, or a Green Dot card.

Christofek says the sheriff’s office does not make phone calls about arrest warrants. Sheriff’s officials say if you receive a call like this, to let the caller know you’re aware of the scam and hang up.

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
August Tip of the Month
 
       IDENTITY THEFT/CREDIT REPORTS 
  
One way to help guard against identify theft is to obtain a copy of your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies-Equifax, Experian, and Transunion-to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. 
  
Only www.annualcreditreport.com is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report. IMPORTANT: Other websites that claim to offer "free credit reports," "free credit scores," or "free credit monitoring" are NOT part of the legally mandated free credit report program. In some cases the "free" service comes with strings attached such as having to sign up for a trial period. If you don't cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card. 
  
Checking your credit report will enable you to see if an unauthorized person has obtained a credit card or other type of credit in your name. 
  
TIP: Since you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from three companies order one in January, one in July and one in November. This enables you to monitor your credit all year. 
  
To order your credit report visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta GA  30348-5281. 
 
July Tip of the Month
 
An excellent source of information on identity theft and resources to report and recover if you are a victim of identity theft is www.Identitytheft.gov. This program is run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In addition the FTC has a website www.ftc.gov that contains excellent consumer information under the "Scam Alerts" and "Tips & Advise" tabs.
 
June Tip of the Month
 
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association have partnered to provide a free service in which Florida residents can receive an email when a registered sexual offender moves into their neighborhood. To sign up for this service go to www.FDLE.STATE.FL.US/ .
 
 
 
May Tip of the Month
 
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
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Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams
Many consumers have received bogus notifications indicating that they have won lotteries or sweepstakes through known organizations, only to find out that they have been scammed.
The scam typically starts by the receipt of a letter stating that they have won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes, along with a cashier's check. The letter indicates that the check is to be used in order to cover any taxes and fees that are associated with claiming your prize money. All you have to do is deposit the check into your bank account and wire a portion of the money back in order to cover the taxes and fees on your winnings. Once they have received the money wire for the taxes and fees, they will then send you the rest of the prize money you've "won."
Unbeknown to the recipient, the cashier's check accompanying the letter is fraudulent. You will be held liable for the full amount of the deposited check. Many consumers believe that if a check is deposited and the money appears in their account, the check must be valid. This is not always the case; there are actually federal laws that require that banks make funds available within one to five business days depending on the type of check, however it can take up to several weeks for a bad check to be discovered.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim
  • NEVER pay money to receive money. Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee or tax to collect winnings.
  • NEVER enter any foreign lotteries. If you play a foreign lottery through the mail or over the telephone, you're violating federal law.
  • Ask yourself, did I enter this contest? You cannot win money or a prize in a contest unless you or someone else has entered on your behalf.
  • Game promotions offering prizes totaling more than $5,000 must file with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services seven days prior to commencement of the promotion. Even game promotions based in other states must be filed if they are conducted in Florida and/or are open to Florida residents and have prizes valued at more than $5,000.
  • Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state's clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. Our website provides consumers with information on our complaint mediation process, as well as allowing consumers to file a complaint online. For additional information, contact the department's consumer assistance center by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español or visit us online at www.800helpfla.com.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner

 

 

APRIL TIP OF THE MONTH

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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Stay Informed About Scams

Staying informed is crucial to keeping you from becoming a victim of scams and fraud. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' (FDACS) website provides a wealth of information to help you achieve just that, from protecting your family, finances and even your computer.

An informed consumer is the best defense against fraud and deception. Unfortunately, scammers know how to get around even an educated consumer's better judgment by playing on emotions or promising huge returns. It's important for consumers to take advantage of the many resources available to be on guard against fraud.

Avoid Becoming a Victim of Scams
Our Little Black Book of Scams provides consumers with a list of common scams targeting Floridians every day, such as tax scams, payday loan scams, travel scams, government scams, charity scams and telemarketing scams. By sharing information on how to detect and avoid frauds and scams, you are better able to protect your loved ones and your community.

Protect Your Child's Identity
Each year, more than 50,000 children in Florida become victims of identity theft, and more than $100 million is stolen from children whose identities have been compromised. Last year, the Florida Legislature passed a new law to provide children with an extra line of defense against identity theft. The Keeping I.D. Safe Act, requires credit reporting agencies to establish and freeze a credit record for a minor upon request by a parent or guardian. By freezing your child's credit, you can effectively block others from using it.

Know Where to go for Information
FDACS also provides an online A to Z Resource Guide for those consumers that may have a question, concern, problem or complaint, and are unsure whom to reach out to or where to start. This guide allows consumers to search by topic and access the website and phone number of the agency or resource that can address their specific questions or concerns.

Investigate Who You're Doing Business With
If you received a recent offer or are dealing with a new business and are unsure about their history, visit our Business/Complaint Lookup. This page allows you to look up a business or individual, verify if they are licensed with the department and if they have received any complaints.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state's clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. Our website provides consumers with information on our complaint mediation process, as well as allowing consumers to file a complaint online. For additional information, contact the department's consumer assistance center by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español or visit us online at www.800helpfla.com.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner

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MARCH TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – “Be aware of Date Rape Drug - Etizolam

Etizolam is a sedative that can cause temporary amnesia, and experts’ claims that it cannot be detected by most drug tests.
It is not FDA approved to be made in the USA.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement said the State Crime Lab has found six cases in Florida so far where the drug has been used with five of these cases being in the last three months.
See Video clip for more information.

You can check this link for a related story:

http://www.news4jax.com/news/new-date-rape-drug-causing-concern/31616106

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by, Major Don Smith, Bureau of Law Enforcement, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.

 

 

 

 

February Tip of the Month

IRS Impersonation Telephone Scam. 

An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers is active across the country. Callers claim to be from the IRS and tell the Victim they owe money and  the IRS must be paid through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. Victims are threatened with arrest. They alter their caller ID to indicate it is the IRS. 1.) The IRS will NEVER call to demand immediate payment nor will they call  about taxes owed without first mailing a bill. More information is available at www.IRS.gov, click on tax scam tab.

Thank you,

 

JANUARY TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – “Automobile Burglary”

To help avoid a burglary to your automobile please lock it at all times including at home.
Also avoid having anything of value visible in your automobile, including when you are at the beach.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by, Phil Weiler of Indian River County.

 

 

SEPTEMBER TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – “Drinking & Driving”

 

Think before you drink.
Have a designated driver.
“Drinking & Driving Changes Lives Forever”.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

AUGUST TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – “PHONE SCAMMERS”.

 

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
If you are not sure, just hang up.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

 

JULY TIP OF THE MONTH

“HOME SCAMMERS”.

1. If you are home always keep your doors locked.

2. Beware of people posing as Certain Individuals, always ask for Identification.

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

JUNE TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – “FIREWORKS”.

 

Discharging fireworks is against the law!
Leave fireworks to the experts.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

MAY TIP OF THE MONTH 

Topic – “Texting and Driving”.

1. Texting is Against the Law!

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

APRIL TIP OF THE MONTH 

Topic – “Roadside Safety”.

WHEN BEING STOPPED BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER:

1. Pull to the side of the road in a safe manner.

2. Try to get completely off the road.

3. Stay inside your vehicle; let the Officer come to you.

4. Remain calm.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

MARCH TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – “Boating Safety”.

Boating and Alcohol don’t mix.
Observe “No Wake Zones” in order to save our Manatees.
Always have a means to call for help. Carry a cell phone.
When boating always take plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Always wear a wide brimmed hat to protect against the sun’s ray.
Observe boating rules of the road.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

 

FEBRUARY TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – “Lock It Or Lose It”.

 

Lock your vehicle every time you leave it unattended.
Don’t leave valuables in plain sight.
Purchase a locking gas cap to prevent gas theft.

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

JANUARY TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – Construction Zone Speed Limit

Always Slow Down In Construction Zones, Even If Workers Are Not Present.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

DECEMBER TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – ATM Safety

Avoid ATM’s that are obstructed from view or in poorly lit areas.
Avoid using an ATM at night.
Have your card ready prior to reaching the ATM.
Always take your ATM receipt.
If in your vehicle keep your windows up. Keep your engine running. Immediately leave area if you become suspicious.
Never allow a stranger to assist you.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

 

NOVEMBER TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – Home Security

Add Extra Security Measures to Sliding Doors.
Deter Thieves by Installing Proper Locks.
Deter Thieves by Installing Alarms on Doors and Windows.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 

OCTOBER TIP OF THE MONTH

Topic – Driving in the Rain

 

A. Slower Pace.

B. Check Tire Tread.

C. Do not brake or turn wheel suddenly – Hydroplane.

D. Give extra distance to the vehicle in front of you.

E. Pull off road and wait it out.

 

*This suggestion is brought to your attention by TCCS Board Member, Freddie Woolfork of Indian River County.

 


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