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Always be on guard for e-mail scams


Q: With so many scams reported in daily newspapers and on local TV news, what consumer protection tips should I be aware of?

A: Unfortunately, experts at the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona also say there is a scam for every occasion and warns all consumers to be on guard.

Read on for a list of the most recent rip-offs moving across the country, and trusted tips from your BBB of Southern Arizona on how to avoid them.

Sweetheart scams

• If you receive an e-mail that indicates the flowers you ordered for your sweetie won’t be delivered unless you log in and re-enter your credit-card information, beware. Of course all you’re doing is giving your card information to a thief. Don’t respond. If you did order flowers, call the company you ordered through.

• You might receive an e-mail that states “you received an eCard,” and directs you to click on a link. The link looks like an American Greetings or Hallmark Web site (but it isn’t). Once there, you are told to click another link to view your eCard, but you can’t see it because “you don’t have the latest Flash Player.” What you really end up downloading is harmful software. Delete the e-mail, even if it appears to be from someone you know.

• While it may be an exciting thought to be contacted by a secret admirer, any attachment you open in this type of e-mail may enable malicious software to be loaded onto your computer. Delete the e-mail.

• Scam artists often create fake profiles for online dating sites designed to match the kind of person they think will fall for their ploy. Once they make contact, the scam begins. When it is time to meet, your true love won’t have enough money for the trip and will need you to wire money for a plane ticket. Never wire money, especially out of the country.

Tax scams

• Some companies claim that they can help you reduce the amount of money you owe in taxes or fines to the government. BBB has heard from consumers who paid thousands of dollars to such companies and were devastated to learn that the company didn’t reduce the amount owed and, in some cases, never even contacted the IRS.

Seek the advice of an IRS enrolled agent, Certified Public Accountant, or a tax attorney to determine if you qualify for a reduction.

• Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) are cash advances offered by a tax preparer based on your anticipated refund. Anyone who relies on an RAL is essentially paying to borrow their own money, and the rates can be extremely high (from 50 to 500 percent). The fastest and most secure way to get your refund is to file online and allow a direct deposit

• Phishing e-mails around tax time usually tell you that there’s an issue with your refund, that you’re being audited or that there is a problem preventing your taxes from being processed. In most cases, the fraudulent e-mail will provide a hyperlink to a fake site. If the IRS needs to reach you they will not e-mail you.

Not sure if the e-mail or phone call you received is a scam? Call the local Better Business Bureau (BBB) at 888-5353 or visit tucson.bbb.org.

Today’s question is answered for Pima Council on Aging by Kim States, acting president, BBB of Southern Arizona. Send questions for PCOA to generations@tucsoncitizen.com

Pima Council on Aging

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