Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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Beware Scams Related to the Government Shutdown

Much of the U.S. government has been shutdown since the beginning of the October while the nation’s decision makers try to figure out how the government is going to pay its bills. Meanwhile, scammers are taking advantage of the shutdown to trick consumers into giving up personal information that can be used for fraud.

Sallie Mae, Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
Amid the shutdown, there have been quite a few fake social media accounts created claiming to be Sallie Mae and offering to clear student loan debt for the first several thousand “followers” or “reposts.” These accounts claimed the government shutdown was to thank for the generosity.

It’s also important to note that Sallie Mae is a company, not part of the Federal government. The hoax is just a scam to get personal information that could then be used to commit fraud and identity theft.

Student loan forgiveness actually does exist, but it’s not as easy as reposting a message from a social networking site.

A variation of the scam promises a scholarship from OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network, to the first 250,000 followers of a fake instagram account.

Always go to the source, if Sallie Mae were to forgive student loans (hardly not) or OWN were to give out scholarships, there would be information about it on their direct websites. Never give up your personal information based on something you’ve only seen on a social networking site. Always verify through a reputable source.

IRS Tax Collection Scams

Tax scams are nothing new and are usually performed via email. An increased number of taxpayers are receiving phone calls from someone (or several different people) impersonating the IRS and asking for personal information and payment.

However, the Internal Revenue Service is operating on a very limited basis during the shutdown – they don’t even have live customer service at this time. That means, if you wanted to contact the IRS directly to verify whether a real IRS employee or a scammer was contacting you, you couldn’t get in touch with anyone. It’s important to note that IRS handles many collection activities via mail, and certified mail at that. According to the IRS website, they’re not sending out any new lien or levy notices.

A Forbes.com article reports that come taxpayers have unfortunately been scammed out of thousands of dollars. The scammers have pressed them to give out their bank account information or load money onto Green Dot MoneyPak cards to take care of these “past due tax balances” to avoid worse consequences: jail time or a bank levy.

If you receive a call that claims to be from the IRS during the government shutdown or after, try contacting the IRS directly at their toll free number 1-800-829-1040. Note that the IRS does accept take Green Dot Money Paks as payment.

Collectors Being More Aggressive

The Better Business Bureau serving Northeast Florida reports that it’s been receiving an increased number of calls about fake debt collectors. These phony collectors may think a shutdown means they can’t be prosecuted since the government is shutdown. And they may use illegal threats to pressure you into paying a debt.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who now takes complaints for debt collection agencies, is still operating. So, if a debt collector uses unfair or illegal tactics to collect from you, get the collector’s information (name, address, phone number, etc.) and submit your complaint to consumerfinance.gov/complaints. If you think there may be some validity to the debt, you have the right to request validation, just as you do with all third-party debt collectors.

Be on Guard for Scams

An increased number of scams means that you have to be more on guard than ever. Consider everything with a dose of skepticism, especially requests for your personal or financial information. It’s hard to recover from a scam, so use your best judgment to consider whether you’re being contacted by a legitimate agency.

Sources: USNews.com, Forbest.com, IRS.gov, Northeast Florida BBB
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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

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