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Consumer Alerts

AG Alert: Tax Time Tricks from Thieves

AG Alert: Tax Time Tricks from Thieves

Wed, Feb 28, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – With tax season in full swing, scammers are ramping up efforts to steal data from tax professionals and scam their clients. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued an identity theft warning indicating that thieves hack into a tax professional’s files, steal sensitive client information and file a tax return in that person’s name. While the money may go to your personal account – reports indicate some amounts are as much as $20,000 – the scammer has plans to impersonate the IRS and collect that money later.

“This scam is heating up as more Arkansans file their taxes,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Scammers gain access to a tax preparer’s data and file fraudulent tax returns. The thieves then pose as the IRS and threaten legal action if the money is not turned over to them immediately, usually in the form of a wire transfer or pre-paid card.”

Some victims receive threats of being turned over to the IRS collection agency, while others have been told that their social security number would be “blacklisted.” These are both scams and the IRS asks consumers who receive an erroneous refund to follow the established procedures listed below.

Attorney General Rutledge and the IRS released the following tips if Arkansans find a large refund in their name that they were not expecting:

  • If the erroneous refund was a direct deposit:
    • Contact the Automated Clearing House department of the bank/financial institution where the direct deposit was received and have them return the refund to the IRS.
    • Call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 to explain why the direct deposit is being returned.
  • If the erroneous refund was a paper check and has not been cashed:
    • Write "Void" in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
    • Submit the check immediately to the local IRS location.
    • Do not staple, bend or paper clip the check.
    • Include a note stating, "Return of erroneous refund check because (provide a brief explanation of why the refund check is being returned)."
  • If the erroneous refund was a paper check and you have cashed it:
    • Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location for the amount deposited by the scammers.
    • If you no longer have access to a copy of the deposited check, call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 and explain to the IRS assistor that you need information to repay a cashed refund check.
    • Write on the check/money order: “Payment of Erroneous Refund,” the tax period for which the refund was issued and your social security number.
    • Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the refund.
    • Be aware that repaying an erroneous refund in this manner may result in interest due to the IRS.

The IRS has also encouraged tax preparers to increase their own security measures to avoid these data breaches. Tax preparers should consider consulting with a reputable data security consultant or provider in order to give greater protection to their customers.

The IRS encourages Arkansans with any questions about owed taxes to contact their office directly at (800) 829-1040.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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AG ALERT: Scammers Guilty of Using Courts to Intimidate Victims

AG ALERT: Scammers Guilty of Using Courts to Intimidate Victims

Wed, Feb 21, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers continue to attack our communities by impersonating law enforcement officers across Arkansas. This time, consumers are falsely told that they have failed to report to jury duty and owe a fine. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge encourages all Arkansans who receive this call to contact the local courthouse or clerk directly.

“Intimidation and impersonation are common practices for con artists,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These criminals are becoming more brazen by offering consumers a badge number and spoofing their phone number to make the call look like it is coming from the courthouse. Scams may sound legitimate, but consumers should always confirm any information with their local courts before providing any information to the person on the other end of the phone.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are contacted by these scammers:

  • Contact your local courthouse to ensure you are not on a jury duty list.
  • Contact local law enforcement and provide the name and badge number you received to verify the officer information and ask if you were contacted by that officer.
  • Court officials will not ask for your personal information such as social security number, address, credit card number or any other personal information. Verifying that information could lead to other scams or identity theft.

The scammers are reportedly asking for payment of the “fine” in the form of gift cards or prepaid debit cards. Once the code on the card is turned over, the criminal has control of the card value. Once the value is redeemed, the consumer cannot get the money back.

If consumers have questions contact the Attorney General’s office or your local U.S. Marshals Services.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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AG ALERT: Identity Thieves Phishing for Love

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Identity Thieves Phishing for Love

Wed, Feb 14, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Any online activity increases our risk for identity theft, but with Valentine’s Day upon us the threat is higher than ever as more Arkansans take to dating sites and offer large amounts of personal information over the internet. Even a simple social media post – seemingly devoid of sensitive information – could lead hackers to potential passwords, which could in turn grant access to not only email but also financial information.

“Many of us use pet, family and street names as passwords, but these are not secure and can easily be hacked, ” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Once a password is compromised, thieves can gain access to countless forms of personal information and stealing your identity becomes easy.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help Arkansans protect their identities:

If your identity has been stolen, file a police report and contact the Attorney General’s office for information on filing fraud alerts, requesting an identity theft passport and the next steps you should take.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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AG Alert: Law Enforcement Imposters Threaten Arkansans

AG Alert: Law Enforcement Imposters Threaten Arkansans

Wed, Feb 7, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Criminals have rapidly adopted a frightening new scam that could place all law-abiding Arkansans at risk by simply exploiting the trust we all place in law enforcement. Scammers are impersonating law enforcement officers and threatening Arkansans with arrest if they do not immediately pay money. Some scammers tell potential victims that they have failed to appear as a witness and a warrant for their arrest will be issued unless the victim sends a prepaid credit card. Other scammers threaten victims with arrest and deportation if they do not send money.

“Con artists are preying on our respect for the law enforcement community by posing as officers in order to intimidate Arkansans,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “These criminals are reaching new lows and can be very convincing. If an Arkansan receives a call from a law enforcement officer, they should look up the phone number for that officer’s agency and call to speak with someone at the agency directly.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help spot this scam and avoid falling victim:

  • Courts and law enforcement agencies do not seek or accept payment in prepaid gift cards.
  • If a consumer owes money, legitimate collectors must first send a written notice confirming the debt.
  • Consumers should not confirm or provide personal or financial information to an unknown person over the phone or internet.

Keep in mind that con artists do not follow the law and disregard the do-not-call registry. Technological advances allow for Caller ID spoofing, allowing scammers to disguise the source of the calls.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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AG Alert: IRS Scammers Still Targeting Consumers

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: IRS Scammers Still Targeting Consumers

Wed, Jan 31, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – The IRS scam has seen a dramatic increase in recent weeks. Callers to the Arkansas Attorney General’s office are reporting scammers posing as the IRS in an attempt to steal money and personal information. The recent scam calls have all been made from an Atlanta phone number with a 470 area code.

“These scammers continue to update their tactics and try to intimidate Arkansans,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “We have seen a number of different versions of this scam, but Arkansans should know that the IRS will never call you in this manner.”

The IRS recently reminded consumers how to easily recognize scam calls. Consumers should know that the IRS will not do the following:

  • Call demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not call if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
  • Demand that taxes are paid without providing the individual the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Require a specific form of tax payment. For example, demanding a payment with a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask consumers for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

The IRS strongly recommends that Arkansans who receive these threatening calls not give out any personal information and hang up immediately, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 to report the call and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The agency also requests that any scam emails be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS encourages Arkansans with any questions about owed taxes to contact their office directly at (800) 829-1040.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Timeshare Resale Scams

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Timeshare Resale Scams

Thu, Jan 25, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Con artists are playing the odds and cold calling Arkansans about selling their timeshares. While many Arkansans do not “own” a timeshare, those who do may fall victim to this scam. The callers are preying on consumers who may be surprised by expensive annual maintenance fees, difficulty exchanging specific dates or locations or that property values have remained the same or decreased when they thought they would increase, and want out of their timeshare agreement.

A timeshare is a type of property in which an “owner” buys the right to use it for a contractually-designated period of time and are commonly condominium units located in a popular destination city and often have multiple “owners.”

“Timeshare ‘owners’ who find themselves wanting to sell their portion of the property are often left confused and may believe this is an easy way out,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Consumers must beware of these scam artists promising the quick sale of the ‘owner’s’ portion of the timeshare. Legitimate businesses can help consumers sell, but Arkansans must do their research to find reliable sellers.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans looking to resell their timeshare:

  • Beware of timeshare unsolicited resellers contacting you with the promise to resell your timeshare.
  • If they say they have willing buyers, it is probably a lie.
  • Never pay a substantial advance fee for resale assistance. A reputable seller will charge a commission paid only upon sale, like a normal real estate transaction. An advance fee may be called a marketing fee, a listing fee, an internet advertising fee or other related fee.
  • Get an independent appraisal from a licensed appraiser before agreeing on any resale assistance contract.
  • Deal only with licensed agents.

The timeshare industry has become a popular platform for a number of con artists to take advantage of ‘owners’ desperate to sell. They claim to offer assistance in selling the timeshare and take away the burden of the continuing costs of ownership. These operations collect hundreds or thousands of dollars in so-called deed transfer or marketing fees but never complete the sale.

The timeshare industry was rapidly expanding in the 1970s and 1980s, which resulted in an overdeveloped market and flood of properties that now have depressed values. These circumstances make the resale of timeshares difficult. Like the real estate market, the timeshare industry fluctuates and is unpredictable.

For more information about the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, call (800) 482-8982, email consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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