Scam of the day – February 15, 2017 – FTC gets court order halting phony rental property scam and free credit reporting scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has obtained a temporary restraining order against Credit Bureau Center LLC, Michael Brown, Danny Pierce and Andrew Lloyd as a part of its legal action against them on charges that they operated scams involving phony rental property advertisements and offered “free” credit reports for which they charged monthly amounts to their victims’ credit cards.

According to the FTC, the scammers placed Craigslist advertisements for rental properties they were not authorized to represent and in some circumstances even placed advertisements for properties that did not even exist.  When people responded to the ads, the victims were told that before they could see the properties they had to get a free credit report from the defendants’ websites’ myscore.com, creditupdates.com and freecreditnation.com in order to qualify to be considered for renting the properties.  The “free” credit reports, however, were far from free because the fine print in the agreement to obtain the “free” credit report required the victim to enroll in a credit monitoring service with a continuing monthly charge of $29.94.  According to the FTC, the victims never were shown properties even after getting the required credit report and the scammers ignored all communications from their victims after the victims signed up for the credit monitoring service.

TIPS

Advertisements for rental units and vacation rentals that are not owned by the scammers placing the advertisements is a common scam.  It is easy for scammers to get photos and other information about rental units and vacation rentals from legitimate websites and post them to lure victims into sending money to the scammers as a deposit.

A good way to protect yourself from this type of scam is to do a Google or other search engine search with the address of the property to see where it may turn up and who is listed as the owner.  Another good source of information is to go online to the Tax Assessor for the city or town where the property is located and confirm that the name of the property owner matches the name of the person attempting to rent you the property.

In regard to “free” credit reports, you should never have to give a credit card number for a free service although often scammers require this.  You should also carefully read any contract you make.  There rarely is anything fine in fine print.  The victims of this particular scam would have seen that they were signing up for a recurring charge if they carefully read their contract.

Finally, carefully monitor your credit card statements and bank accounts often to discover fraudulent charges as soon as possible.

Scam of the day – February 15, 2016 – Income tax fraud convictions

Last week in Florida five people were sentenced to prison sentences ranging up to nine years related to their convictions on tax fraud and other related charges.  Ronald J. Scriven, the mastermind of the criminal enterprise which went on between 2007 and 2011 was sentenced to nine years in federal prison.  Scriven operated a number of tax preparation businesses and filed phony income tax returns on behalf of people recruited by him and the other members of his criminal ring, Danesa Webb, Walter Pressley, Fritznel Jacques and Michael Brown.  Pressely, at the time, was a resident of the First Step Sober Community House in Pompano Florida and he and the others recruited homeless people, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in whose names Scriven filed fraudulent federal income tax returns which resulted in the IRS paying Scriven 7.5 million dollars in fraudulent refunds.  Scriven enlisted the people in whose names he filed income tax returns by telling them that they were eligible for “Obama money.”  Scriven also filed fraudulent income tax returns on behalf of dead people whose Social Security numbers he also managed to obtain.

TIPS

Fraudulent income tax preparers can be found everywhere and because when hire someone to prepare your income tax returns it is necessary to provide him or her with personal information that can result in your becoming a victim of identity theft or a party to a fraud, you should be particularly careful to check out the legitimacy of anyone you entrust with this job.  Here is a link to an interactive web page of the IRS that will help you understand tax return preparer credentials and enable you to look up the qualifications of anyone you may be considering to help you with the filing of your federal income tax return.  http://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf