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In a "sophisticated phone scam," fraudsters are telling consumers they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer, the Internal Revenue Service said last week.
The IRS warned consumers that the scam is hitting "nearly every state in the country."
“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a news release.
The IRS noted that the first IRS contact on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail.
If you've been the target of this scam, the IRS recommends contacting the Federal Trade Commission using their "FTC Complaint Assistant", and add "IRS telephone scam" in the comments of the complaint.
Consumers who like to shop may be enticed to enter a secret shopping program, but the Better Business Bureau says mailings attempting to introduce people to mystery shopping are usually bogus.
Typically marketing companies businesses hire secret shoppers to evaluate the customer service or to gather information on a specific product. For example, a clothing store may want to ensure their employees are asking customers to sign up for a store credit card, so the company may hire secret shoppers who will go the store and then answer a survey.
The BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota said some secret shopping schemes look official because the scammers mail real-looking checks from legitimate businesses, sometimes sent via UPS or FedEx.
"The checks are bogus and these businesses have no association with these schemes," the BBB said in a news release Tuesday.
Firms do not typically send out checks to lure in potential secret shoppers,according to the BBB. "At best, being a secret shopper offers supplemental income."
The BBB advises visiting the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website, mysteryshop.org, for a list of reputable mystery shopping companies.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce urged consumers last week to research investment offers and services before making their investments.
The department said the recent lifting of an 80-year old ban on advertising of private offerings has the potential to lead to greater abuse.
"This is a reminder for investors that whether using a new crowdfunding portal or an accredited investor aggregator, it is important to do your due diligence and to understand the risks involved when using an unregulated third party," the department said in a statement released last week.
The department also released an updated list of top threats to investors and small businesses, compiled by the North American Security Administrators Association.
Here are the top investment schemes for 2013, according to the NASAA:
New Investor Threats
New Small Business Threats
Scammers are taking advantage of the government shutdown by telling consumers across the country that they need to obtain new Medicare cards, collect unpaid taxes or fines.
Agencies across the country are warning consumers to beware. The Better Business Bureau in Florida alerted consumers of a scam where a caller claims to work the the IRS and demands that money be sent by the end of the day or risk being arrested.
"The scammers are taking advantage of the fact than the IRS is currently shut down, so consumers cannot verify the legitimacy of the calls and feel threatened," the BBB said.
Fox 4 in Kansas City is reporting that residents there are reporting scammers who have sent e-mails tell them that it's imperative to re-enroll in Medicare because of the shutdown. There is a link that prompts people to view enrollment options, but it's a sinwdle, the station reports.
In Pittsburgh, scammers call saying they are with the FBI. According to local Pittsburgh station WTAE, the caller demands a wire transfer to satisfy the debt.
"The caller also said he couldn't accept a credit card as a form of payment because of the government shut down," the station reported.
Scammers pretending to be agents of utility companies collecting overdue bills are calling consumers across the country, and state officials are warning that the scams "may soon be occurring here in Minnesota."
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission said consumers often turn to caller-ID to check if the call is coming from the utility company, but said in many cases the scammers are "spoofing" calls to appear as if the call originates from the utility company.
In Wisconsin, scammers are targeting the Hispanic community. Madison.com reported in August that state officials received six complaints within a week in the Green Bay area alone.
The Public Utilities Commission said if someone is suspicious of any call threatening to disconnect and demanding payment, you should hang up and call the utility company's customer service representative.
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