Health, Independence, Choice

Scam and Fraud Alerts

Scam Action Alerts are posted to keep the community aware of scam and fraud attempts currently being run in our community, to help prevent seniors from being victimized.

March 16, 2015–IRS Scam Calls.  The IRS won’t call out of the blue to ask for payment, won’t demand a specific form of payment, and won’t leave a message threatening to sue you if you don’t pay right away. A fresh variation of this scam is when the caller says you owe the IRS money back because you incorrectly received subsidy money for your Affordable Care Act health insurance! Even if you did have to refund some miscalculated excess health insurance subsidy monies, the IRS would NEVER be phoning you to demand payment or any specific type of payment, or your bank/debit/credit card/money card numbers!  The government uses the mail to contact you, period.  Just hang up if you get one of these scam calls.

March 16, 2015–Another Personal Emergency Alert Robocalls Concern: our friends at Barry Commission on Aging passed along word that Senior Care USA is using a robocall which states they will give you (the senior) a free life alert type device and possibly 3,000 in groceries. You must press a number to verify your address for the free device. Then the robocall goes on to say that if you don’t verify shipping address for this life saving device your medical provider will be notified that you REFUSED. This company is using some very shady marketing because it sounds as if you have to get this device or something bad will happen. And it is NOT free. The device is free but the SERVICE is NOT. Please let the seniors in your life be aware of this ridiculous marketing ploy!

March 16, 2015–Here’s one for the good guys! People who were scammed by a Premier Precious Metals investment scam are REALLY getting refund checks!  The FTC sent more than $2.4 million in refund checks to people harmed by a Premier Precious Metals investment scam. The Commission alleges that the company took millions of dollars from investors, including many older people, by conning them into buying precious metals on credit without clearly disclosing significant costs and risks. The people affected will recover nearly 70 percent of the amount they lost. If you get a refund check, be sure to cash it within 60 days of the mailing date. And remember, the FTC will never ask you to pay anything or give personal information before you can cash a refund check.

December 10, 2014–Robocalls repeatedly calling, eating up minutes on cell phones. TV Station WOTV brought to light a concern we’ve also heard in our office–that religious non-profits were abusing their privilege to ignore the “do not call list” and incessantly calling seniors with “robocalls.” For the senior in the WOTV news story, this practice was eating up the minutes on her government-subsidized free phone. See the story at: http://woodtv.com/2014/12/09/repeat-calls-use-up-federal-program-phone-minutes/

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website offers complaint reporting options, and the rules relating to robocalls at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/202873880-Robocalls       While their policy largely relates to robocalls related to telemarketing “selling”, there is a statement on the FCC robocalls page which reads:  “All autodialed or prerecorded non-emergency calls to wireless phones are prohibited without prior expressed consent, regardless of the call’s content.”   This doesn’t declare that the autodialed or prerecorded calls have to be trying to sell you something–robocalls to your cell phone without your prior expressed consent are prohibited, period.

You can file a complaint at the FCC.gov website, or

  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
  • Or, via good old-fashioned mail:

(please include include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

The FCC won’t resolve individuals complaints, but if they receive a volume of complaints about a type of concern, they will do an investigation. Therefore, the more complaints they receive, the better they can do their job.

November 12, 2014–Consumers Energy Overdue Bill Scam Call. TV Station WWMT reports that people around Plainwell are getting calls claiming that their power bill is overdue, demanding payment in the  form of a cash card.  Consumers will not cold call you about your overdue bill, and would never encourage payment via cash cards or “green dot” cards.  Just hang up.    Remember never give anyone (online or over the phone) the numbers on a gift card, cash card, or your debit/credit card (which may include any codes on the back of the card).  This information allows them to use your card for online purchases.

July 22, 2014–Barry County “Police Fundraiser” Scam Callers.  Info in from MLIVE. A woman is making calls to county residents from an unknown number, asking for money on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, Undersheriff Bob Baker said in a news release Tuesday. The caller also asks if they lock their home and vehicles. These calls display no caller ID, Baker said.

“The Barry County Sheriff’s office is not soliciting money,” Baker said. “We believe this may be an attempt to gain information for a home invasion or larceny from a vehicle.”

July 22, 2014–MORE Asphalt Scammers. Police in Battle Creek are warning residents of a driveway sealing scam.  The incidents are taking place in areas where road work is being done.
Police say two men in an older red pickup have been approaching homeowners, offering to seal or resurface their driveways. They say the men attempt to charge $3,500 after the resurfacing.
If homeowners balk at the price they will take any amount of money.  Investigators say that the men have also promised to return the next day but never do.  Investigators say that a woman was taken for $1,800 in the scam Monday. Officers say this isn’t a new scam, it has happened in the area before. (See June 26 posting, this page!)

June 26, 2014–Asphalt Driveway Scammers.  Warning! The asphalt scammers are back in the area. If they come to your house and say they have some left over from another job, tell them no thanks and you want them to leave! If they start work on your driveway and tell you that you have to pay them, tell them you are calling 911 and do it!!
Today a local lady was saved from being scammed out of $3,500 to one of these scam companies because of a very vigilant teller at the United Educational Credit Union! This poor lady was taken for over $6,000 last year and was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so these out-of-state creeps came back a second time!!
This time they were stopped and a police report was made. Hopefully these people will be caught and punished!! But please be alert and tell your friends to never deal with companies that stop by and offer to do work. Use local reputable companies who are licensed and insured.

February 4, 2014–“One Ring” Phone Scam.  This one’s going around the country, and has definitely hit our area. According to NewsChannel 3 WWMT, scammers program their computers to blast out thousands of calls to random cell phone numbers. Those calls ring once and then hang up. If you call back, you’re connected to an adult entertainment service, a chat-line or some other premium program in another country. You’re charged a nearly $20 international phone call fee, plus per minute charges for that “premium service.” Those charges can be an extra nine dollars a minute or more, but some scammers are keeping the dollar amounts small so they are less likely to be noticed by consumers.

Those international area codes generating this scam are (268) – Antigua/Barbuda | (809) – Dominican Republic | (876) – Jamaica | (284) – British Virgin Islands | (473) – Grenada.  The Better Business Bureau says if you don’t recognize an out-of-state number, don’t answer it. If it rings once, make sure you don’t call back. You should also check your cell phone bills regularly and let your carrier know right away if you see any questionable charges.

January 14, 2014– Fake IRS Calls hitting our area again! We’re getting reports of calls claiming to be from the IRS saying money is owed and must be paid or else! This is a scam that’s been going around for months. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfelhis assures, the IRS does not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.. “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.” Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via regular mail.

Other characteristics of this scam include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number. Don’t believe a caller just because they have small bits of info about you!
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov.  Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

January 14, 2014–Tax Refund Thefts Warning. Guard your mailbox! Last year, thieves targetted rural mailboxes around Albion and Homer to steal W-2 forms and 1099 forms, which could have enabled them to steal tax refunds from the owners of the mail. Lockable mailboxes are available for as little as $20 at home improvement stores.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has declared January 13-17 Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. There are seminars, webinars, text chats and other special events taking place all across the country this week. Theft of tax refunds is a rapidly growing issue for all ages.  The TODAY show Money  section webpage published an article today detailing some of the Tax Refund Theft trends and tips for avoiding having this happen to you.  See their article at:  http://www.today.com/money/identity-thieves-gear-steal-your-tax-refund-2D11910916

The IRS has added many new workers to combat this rapidly growing crime.  One of the best tips to avoid being ripped off is to file as early as possible, so that if someone attempts to claim your refund, it has already been sent to you.  NOTE: This works the other way around for thieves–if they beat you to filing, you may have to wait up to six months or more to get the issue straightened out!

Learn more at the IRS website at:

http://www.irs.gov/uac/Taxpayer-Guide-to-Identity-Theft

 January 14, 2014– Robocalls for “Free” Emergency response buttons shut down!  A U.S. District Court in Florida has issued a temporary restraining order against the accused company. Calls were going out nationwide, saying a family member had bought the system for their beloved senior family member.  Seniors who dialed “1” during the call and provided info to be charged for the shipping were being charged whether they ever received the equipment or got it activated.  Read the press release at the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/01/ftc-florida-attorney-general-sue-halt-operation-used-robocalls  A preliminary injunction hearing in the case is scheduled for January 16, 2014.

I may be worthwhile to note whether your account has been charged by any of the named defendants in this case; as refunds may eventually be issued.  The defendants include: 1) Worldwide Info Services, Inc., also doing business as (d/b/a) The Credit Voice; 2) Elite Information Solutions Inc., also d/b/a The Credit Voice; 3) Absolute Solutions Group Inc, also d/b/a The Credit Voice; 4) Global Interactive Technologies, Inc., also d/b/a The Credit Voice Inc.; 5) Global Service Providers, Inc.; 6) The Credit Voice, Inc, also d/b/a TCV; 7) Live Agent Response 1 LLC, also d/b/a LAR; 8) Arcagen, Inc., also d/b/a ARI; 9) American Innovative Concepts, Inc.; 10) Unique Information Services Inc.; 11) Michael Hilgar; 12) Gary Martin; and 13) Joseph Settecase.

Good job, FTC!

November 13, 2013– Disaster Relief scams often follow rapidly in the wake of a natural disaster.  The tragic typhoon in the Philippines, like other disasters, is liable to inspire cons and scammers to try to get into your wallets and accounts.  Despite personal tragic stories, it is usually unwise to donate cash to an individual or small groups of persons; they simply will not have the infrastructure needed to get the cash to the needy.  It is recommended that you donate to well established charities which have already got “boots on the ground” methods for getting the assistance to those in need. Do not click on email links or respond to random texts for assistance, these can be portals used by scam hackers to get at your funds.  Be extremely cautious about providing any debit, credit, or checking account information to charities online, as counterfeit sites are common.   Giving at your local offices of international charities like the Red Cross is a safer way to be certain that your money is going to where you intended, and is being used efficiently to do the most good.

HINT: Giving with a personal check or credit/debit card will provide your name and address (and possibly phone number) to the charity, which may result in a barrage of junk mail and phone calls.  Giving with a money order can help protect your privacy.

 

October 2, 2013–„„ The Medicare open enrollment period is a time when there’s a higher risk for fraudulent activities. Some benficiaries have expressed confusion over whether their Medicare is affected by the new Health Marketplace plans. Medicare Beneficiaries do NOT need to buy insurance in the new Health Insurance marketplace. It’s against the law for someone who knows that you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan.

NOTE: The Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment period (October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014) overlaps with the Medicare Open Enrollment period (October 15 – December 7, 2013). Therefore, people with Medicare who are looking to make Medicare coverage changes should make sure that they are reviewing Medicare plans and not Marketplace options. Review your Medicare plans at Medicare.gov, or by calling your local MMAP office at 1-800-803-7174.

DO NOT share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who knocks on your door or contacts you uninvited to sell you a health plan. No one from the government will call or email you to sell you an insurance plan, or to get your information so they can send you a new or “updated card”. No one from the government will call or email you to ask for your personal identifying information, such as credit card, banking, or Social Security numbers. Per the Office of the Inspector General, you should report these fraudulent activities by calling: 1-800-318-2596.

Review the attached information from CMS, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, for more information.

Medicare Marketplace FAQsFLYER

 

 

July 2, 2013– SCAM ALERT!!!According to News Radio WBCK 95.3fm, Consumers Energy is warning Michigan residents about impostor phone calls asking customers for utility payments. Reports of the scam have come from Consumers Energy customers mainly in southwest Michigan. Most who have reported an incident, say the caller claims utility service will be disconnected unless a credit card payment is made over the phone.

Call Consumers Energy at 1-800-477-5050 if you have questions or concerns that you may have participated in this scam.

June 6, 2013–The Medical Alert Scams are growing, with at least four new company names showing up in the past couple of weeks.  The Michigan Attorney Generals office is investigating numerous complaints about these calls.  DO NOT respond to the robocalls, don’t push any buttons on your phone, and NEVER give out your medicare number or banking information over the phone unless you initiated the call!  Call the Area Agency on Aging if you are concerned and want information on LOCAL medical alert monitoring service providers.

June 6, 2013–The Federal Trade Commission Cracks down on Travel and Timeshare Resale Scams.  The  Federal Trade Commission today announced 191 actions to stop fraudulent  operations hawking timeshare property resale services and travel prizes,  including  three FTC cases, 83 civil actions brought by 28 states, and 25 actions brought  by law enforcement agencies in 10 other countries.  More than 184 individuals face criminal  prosecution by U.S.  Attorneys and local law enforcement.  For details, go to www.ftc.gov.

BEWARE of anyone who calls to say they have a buyer for your timeshare, who offers to manage a sale for an up-front service or finders fee.  Seniors who may be desperate to sell their timeshares are being scammed into paying big fees to these companies, when the mystery buyers never existed!

Timeshare travel scams occur when you are offered a free vacation or trip, but are required to sit in on high-pressure sales presentations trying to get you to buy a timeshare once you arrive at your “vacation” at the destination. Nothing is free!