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Beware of 'Do Not Call' scam

Feb. 4, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 3, 2012 at 8:04 p.m.


BY ALAN BLIGH

I think we all know about the federal Do Not Call list. Schemers have also taken note of the popularity of this federal program.

BBB warns consumers that scammers are making phony phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry.

The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the registry. These calls are not coming from the registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to those calls.

The National Do Not Call Registry gives consumers an opportunity to limit the telemarketing calls they receive. Once they register their phone number, telemarketers covered by the National Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date their telephone number is registered to stop calling.

Note that if your number is already registered with the Do Not Call Registry, your registration does not expire.

To get on the Do Not Call registry, call 888-382-1222 or go to donotcall.gov.

Also, do not forget to register for the state Do Not Call List by calling 866-896-6225 or go to texasnocall.com.

It is no secret that Victoria, as well as the rest of the nation, is in love with its smart phones.

They are amazing and contain way more power than the computers that put us on the moon. But many of us forget that we are walking around with all manner of highly sensitive information in our smart phones.

If you have a smart phone, you could be at risk. Here are six ways to protect yourself. • Password protect your phone. How basic, but most people do not even think of this.

• Set up "Remote Wipe." Most smart phones carry a "remote wipe" feature allowing consumers to destroy all data on a phone that is stolen, including emails, texts, contacts, documents and passwords. Amazing isn't it?

• Beware of unknown applications.

• Turn off your GPS unless you really need it, for example when you are using the map app.

• Be careful when surfing.

• Be cautious when online banking and shopping. Consumers should use caution when banking online and ensure that they are using a secure network and not an unsecured Wi-Fi hot spot.

With the arrival of February, many Texas taxpayers have started receiving W2 forms from their employers. All taxpayers should be on the lookout for tax scams that seek to steal their money and identities.

Taxpayers should be particularly wary of emails that claim to come from the IRS.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.

Texans should always avoid tax preparation services that "guarantee" the largest possible tax return. Under federal law, any deductions tax preparers make for their clients must be accurate and legally permissible.

Tax preparers that submit false information in order to obtain larger refunds for a client put their clients in legal jeopardy.

Tax preparers often offer Refund Anticipation Loans to allow you to immediately receive your tax refund. However, RALs are not an actual refund from the IRS, but are a short-term loan from the company.

According to the Consumer Federation of America, the interest rate and administration fees on RALs can range from 40 percent to more than 700 percent of your refund.

The RAL is an estimation made by the tax preparer of your refund amount, not a statement from the government. As a result, your refund could actually be less than the amount of your loan.

This means you may end up owing the tax preparer more money than you received in your refund.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by email at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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