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Better Business Bureau: Tax schemers out in full force

Feb. 19, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 18, 2011 at 8:19 p.m.


By Alan BlighOh, oh, tax season and we all know that means: tax-related scams. What's the No. 1 tax scam? According to the IRS, it is phishing. Con artists pass themselves off as the IRS to trick you into giving them pertinent personal information, such as your Social Security number, bank account information and credit card numbers.

This scam is implemented in different ways. One way is to call you and try to intimidate you by saying that you are going to be arrested if you do not give your personal information. And they always say they need the information now. Another concern is tax preparation scams. One variation of these scams informs customers that if they are due a refund of more than $600, they have to repay the stimulus money they received last year. Of course, this is not true. If you give the schemer the "refund" they will pocket it. Remember to keep abreast of what is being said in the news about taxes. Schemers love to use the excitement generated by headlines to make their schemes seem relevant.

JURY DUTY SWINDLE

There are few people in our great country who look forward to jury duty - others dread it. Unfortunately for those who take either approach, an old scam with a new ferocity is targeted at you.

You answer your phone and find someone of the other end who claims to be an officer of the court. You haven't appeared for mandated jury duty and have a warrant out for your arrest. You protest and claim that you never received a summons. An easy fix, says the caller, just clear up this mix up by handing over your birth date, Social Security number, maybe even a credit card number, too. The jury duty swindle is considered by the F.B.I to be a threat to all communities. Officials expect this con to pick up speed and for good reason - it's has been a very successful ploy.

IDENTITY THEFT

As we all know, identity theft is a huge problem. It's an even bigger problem in our area. Texans do have a relatively new law to help with the ongoing fight against. Texans may now contact the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - to request a security freeze on their credit accounts, without first obtaining a police report. Previously, Texans could only place a security freeze on their credit files after obtaining a police report, documenting identity theft. A security freeze enables consumers to stop identity thieves from obtaining credit in their names. When consumers want new credit, they can use a personal identification number to unlock access to their credit accounts. Under the law, credit bureaus may charge consumers up to $10 to freeze credit accounts. So now, if you lost your wallet but do not know if identity theft is involved, you can freeze your report. You do not have to prove you are a victim.

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

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