Sweepstakes -“You May Already Be A Winner!” – “What Will You Do With All the Money We’re Preparing to Send You?”

CONSUMER ALERT

BILL SCHUETTE
ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.

Sweepstakes – “You may already be a winner!” “What will you do with all the money we’re preparing to send you?

If you have a mailbox, you have almost certainly received letters with bold headlines like these. These letters are promotions for prize sweepstakes – a kind of advertising that many people find irresistible…and very costly. It is important to keep in mind that companies that use sweepstakes are not in business to give away prizes. They are in business to sell merchandise. Sweepstakes are simply a way to attract your attention to their products or services.

If you decide you want to enter, do not allow enticing dollar signs to obstruct your common sense, remember our top ten sweepstakes tips.

Top 10 THINGS TO REMEMBER IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING Entering Sweepstakes

  1. Buying will not help you win and don’t be fooled by differences in the handling of buyer/contributor and non-buyer/non-contributor entries.

Your chances of winning without a purchase or donation are the same as the chances of someone who buys or donates. It is illegal to give any advantage to a buyer or a donor in a sweepstakes.

  1. You have NOT already won.

Sweepstakes are games of chance. The winner has not been identified. If you enter, your entry will have the same chance to win as every other entry. No one knows who the winner is until after the sweepstakes ends.

  1. Responding to sweepstakes promotions – and especially buying anything – will cause you to get more promotions.

There is an entire industry in buying and selling leads on people known to participate in sweepstakes and other direct mail marketing and telemarketing. These leads appear on “sucker” or “mooch” lists. The best way to protect yourself from sweepstakes fraud is to keep your name off the lists. To do this, you will need to limit or stop participating in sweepstakes and contests, and you should not do business over the phone with unknown callers.

  1. Never give a credit card number, bank account information, Social Security number, or any other personal information to someone who calls you.

One popular way to use the “sucker” lists is to call someone on the list and pretend to be a sweepstakes official. This person then says that the company needs your social security number or your credit card number or bank account number to award the prize. No legitimate contest ever asks for personal information like this.

  1. If you have to pay anything to collect a prize, you didn’t win.

A popular tactic that some disreputable operations use is to contact you and tell you about a great prize that you’ve won – but then say that you have to pay a small “handling fee,” or “shipping fee” before your prize is delivered. Remember, in a legitimate sweepstakes, a free prize means you pay absolutely nothing, and there are no strings or fees attached.

  1. Never pay “taxes” to a sweepstakes promoter.

Another popular tactic the con artists use is to require a pre-payment of taxes. No legitimate company will ever ask you to pay taxes to them to release your prize.

  1. Don’t be fooled by deceptive envelopes.

Deceptive marketers often use misleading envelopes that include statements such as “REGISTERED DOCUMENT ENCLOSED,” or refer to fines and imprisonment for a person who tampers with the envelope. Some use fictitious senders’ names like “The Offices of records of Sweepstakes/Disbursements Division,” or suggest that the recipient has won a prize, such as “Confidential CASH AWARD Documents Enclosed” and “OPEN AND RESPOND IMMEDIATELY!  $3,000.00 cash award is ready to be sent!”

  1. What a telemarketer must tell you.

If you get a call from a telemarketer that involves a sweepstakes or prize promotion, the caller is required to tell you:

  • The odds of winning a prize.
  • That no purchase or payment is required to enter or win a prize.
  • How to participate without buying or paying anything.
  • The costs or conditions you will have to meet to get a prize.
  1. Read the sweepstakes rules carefully, including any fine print.

Before you enter any sweepstakes, read the rules that the promoter is required to include. Pay attention to the dates when entries are accepted, the odds of winning, and any restrictions on entries. Take note of anything that suggests that you have to buy to enter, or that doing so will increase your odds of winning. Report any sweepstakes offers that have this kind of language in them to the Attorney General.

  1. You have the right to stop the mailings.

By law, all sweepstakes offers must include an address or toll-free phone number where anyone, including a caregiver, may direct that their name and address be taken off the sweepstakes firm’s mailing list. If the mailings do not stop after you request to have your name removed, file a complaint with the Attorney General.

Contact the Attorney General with Questions or Complaints

While there are legitimate, reputable firms that use sweepstakes promotions fairly and honestly, it is important to be able to tell them apart from the disreputable firms who prey on “sucker” lists. If you have any questions about sweepstakes promotions mailings or calls that you receive, you may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
517-373-1140
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form

Mystery Shopper Counterfeit Check Scam

CONSUMER ALERT

 

BILL SCHUETTE

ATTORNEY GENERAL 

The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern.  Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.

mystery shopper

counterfeit check scam

Police agencies across Michigan are reporting a recent rash of unsolicited mailings offering consumers the opportunity to earn $300 to $800 per week while acting as a “mystery” or “secret” shopper.  The mailing generally includes an authentic-looking cashier’s check for around $5,000.  The cashier’s check is supposed to cover the cost of completing the required mystery shopper tasks and provide consumers with training pay.  Unfortunately for unsuspecting consumers, the check is a fake and the opportunity is a scam.

According to the letter contained in the mailing, to become a mystery shopper all consumers have to do is complete a paid training assignment within a short time period.  As part of the training, consumers are supposed to pose as shoppers and spend approximately $100 of the cashier’s check at various major retail and restaurant chains and evaluate the service received.  Consumers are even allowed to keep the products they buy.

The retail shops are intended to make the scam seem legitimate.  Consumer are asked to conduct their training at a major retailer or fast food restaurant like Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Lowe’s, Best Buy, J.C. Penny, Burger King, and other major chains.  The scam artists want consumers to believe that they are affiliated with these companies.  The company logos may even be on the letter included in the mailing.

In addition to shopping at a major retailer, consumers are asked to use most of the money they receive to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of Western Union or MoneyGram.  To do this, consumers are required to transfer thousands of dollars to “training agents” in Canada or other foreign locations.  After completing the electronic transfer, consumers have to immediately send a copy of the MoneyGram or Western Union receipt to a fax number provided in the initial mailing.  Due to the short time period consumers have to complete these tasks, their banks generally do not learn that the cashier’s check is counterfeit in time to prevent them from transferring money to a stranger.

The scam works by taking advantage of the delay between the time that the cashier’s check is deposited and when the bank discovers that the check is counterfeit.  In some cases, due to the quality of the counterfeit check, it may take several days, or weeks, for the bank to discover that the check is a fake.  By that time, the money has been transferred and the consumer is responsible for repaying the bank thousands of dollars.

LEGITIMATE MYSTERY SHOPPING OPPORTUNITIES

Although there are many scams involving alleged mystery shopping opportunities, there are some legitimate opportunities.  If you are interested in becoming a mystery shopper remember the following points:

  • Legitimate mystery shopping companies will never promise large sums of fast cash or require consumers to pay a fee to become a mystery shopper.
  • Be weary of unsolicited requests to become a mystery shopper sent through the mail or via e-mail.  Search the Internet for mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications.
  • Be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
  • Visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at www.mysteryshop.org for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with a MSPA-member company, a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry.

CONTACT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S CONSUMER PROTECTION DIVISION

Consumers may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140
Fax: 517-241-3771

Toll free: 877-765-8388

www.michigan.gov/ag (online complaint form)

IRS Phone and Email Tax Scams

CONSUMER ALERT

BILL SCHUETTE
ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern.  Consumer alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.

IRS Will Never Ask for Taxpayers’ Personal Information by Phone or in Emails

Anybody contacting you claiming to be from the IRS and asking you for personal identifying information is a crook. Every year the IRS issues warnings about rebate or other scams being perpetrated by con artists claiming to work for the agency. Here is a list of things the IRS will NEVER do:

  • Call you and demand immediate payment
  • Demand payment without any chance to appeal or question the amount due
  • Threaten to have you arrested
  • Require a specific payment method, like a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer
  • Ask for your bank account number

IRS phone scams are not new, and like death and taxes, annual tax scams are now on the list of life’s certainties. Phone tax scams started getting reported in 2013, and by 2014, tax officials recognized IRS phone scams as the “largest tax scam ever,” conning thousands of victims out of more than $26.5 million. When tax season hits, IRS phone scams top the list of calls to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

IRS phone and email scams join the growing number of popular electronic scams committed from a remote location, often overseas.  Committing these in cyberspace or over a phone, tax fraudsters strike quickly and can cover, erase, or leave no tracks before the taxpayer knows they’ve been duped.

The goal of these crooks is to steal money, take control of personal computers, or commit identity theft. IRS scams enable con artists to get bank account information, Social Security numbers, or credit and debit card details.These tech-savvy crooks can spoof caller ID to make their calls look like they are coming from an official number or location.

Phone tax scams come in many varieties. Regardless of how good or threatening a particular pitch sounds, don’t fall for it. Some recently reported IRS phone scams include:

  • Back Taxes or Penalty Phone Call – High pressure calls threaten legal action that can only be avoided by immediate payment. If you are tempted to pay, look for these clues: payment must be made by difficult-to-trace transfer methods, like a wire transfer or a pre-paid card; and the payment must be made right away. When victims provide the card numbers and PINs to the caller, the caller quickly wipes the cards clean of funds.
  • Debt Collector Contacts for Back Taxes – The IRS recently hired four debt collection agencies to collect some overdue tax debts. Consumers should be on the lookout for any unexpected contacts from anyone claiming to be collecting on behalf of the IRS. The Consumer Alert, Debt Collectors and the IRS provides additional tips to spot and stop these scams.
  • Rebate Phone Call – Aimed at seniors, the caller identifies himself as an IRS employee and tells the targeted victim that he is eligible for a sizable rebate for filing taxes early. The fake IRS employee states that he needs the target’s bank account information for direct deposit of the rebate. Providing your bank account details gives criminals access to your funds.
  • Paper Check Phone Call – In this telephone scam, a fake IRS employee indicates the IRS sent a check that has not been cashed and the IRS needs to verify the individual’s bank account number. The only way the IRS collects your bank account details is if you choose to put them in your tax return.
    • using the official IRS logo;
    • using whole sections of text from the IRS’s website;
    • using a fake “from” address (see example below); and
    • using forms with numbers similar to those the IRS already uses

IRS Email Scams

Email is another popular method of choice for IRS scams. Common email tricks used by these crooks include:

  • false claims that you are due a refund;
  • offers to track your refund;
  • bogus notices that your tax return will be audited; and
  • fake links to tax law changes. Whatever the pitch, all these scams have the same goal: to lure you to give them your personal information. Don’t fall for it.  Remember, the IRS will not email you and ask for your personal information.

Example of a fraudulent IRS email

What to Do if You Get an Email or Phone Call Purporting to Come From the IRS

First, if you don’t owe taxes, hang up immediately or delete the email without opening it.  Report any suspicious solicitation to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration hotline at 800-366-4484.

If you do owe on your taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 if you need federal tax assistance.

You may forward emails to phishing@irs.gov, the address established by the IRS to receive, track, and shut down these scams. Detailed instructions for how to send the emails are available through the IRS. You may not receive an individual response to your email because of the volume of reports the IRS receives each day.

You may also report misuse of the IRS name, logo, forms, or other IRS property using the Treasury Inspector General’s website or hotline at 800-366-4484.

Remember that the only genuine IRS website is www.irs.gov. You should never get to this site using a link embedded into an email – instead enter the address in your browser. A website link embedded into an email can easily take you to a fake site.

Beware of Advance Refund Loans

An advance refund loan is a loan based on money you are expecting to get as a tax refund. These loans can be legitimate but lenders charge huge rates of interest and fees. Sending your return in on time will sometimes get your money is just a few weeks, without a hefty price.

Additional Information

Consumers may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
517-373-1140
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form

Government Records – Get Them From The Government, Not A Third Party

CONSUMER ALERT

BILL SCHUETTE

ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern.  Consumer alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.

GOVERNMENT RECORDS –
GET THEM FROM THE GOVERNMENT, NOT A THIRD PARTY

Many Michigan consumers have received solicitations from companies offering the opportunity to obtain certified government records.  The solicitations inform consumers that the Federal Government says they have to have copies of these certified records with them, and the easiest way to get them is by sending the company a fee – usually between $50 and $100 – and they will send the records directly to you.

What many of these solicitations conveniently neglect to mention is that you can usually obtain certified copies of governmental records, such as deeds on your home, directly from your local, county, or state government for a nominal fee.   Here are some tips on how to avoid paying for “services” from third parties that you can easily do yourself:

DON’T FALL FOR SOLITICATIONS OFFERING TO “HELP YOU” OBTAIN INFORMATION

  1. If you receive a solicitation in the mail or online similar to the one described above, remember that, in general, it is easy to obtain these records for yourself.  For example, if you wish to obtain a certified copy of the deed to your home,  many Michigan counties now offer the ability to order these records online, via their secure websites.  Other Michigan counties may allow you to order records by mail or in person if you are able to get to the office.
    Generally, you will only be asked to pay a nominal fee to obtain copies of these records.  Such fees include copying fees (usually $1 per page) and certification fees ($1 additional fee on top of any other fee that you are required to pay).  Any fees paid to your local, county, or state government will almost certainly be less than the fees a third party may ask you to pay.
    For more information on how to obtain deeds and other government records, contact your county government.  The contact information for your county government should be available online, or in the “Government” section of the phone book you receive at home.
  2. Although some companies may provide the “assistance” after you provide them with your hefty fee, providing any third party with whom you are not familiar with your personal identifying information (including your bank account or credit card information to pay the fee) puts you at risk of identity theft.  If you provide this information to a company that is purely a scam, your information is compromised, and you will have to take additional steps to prevent, or remedy, identity theft.  The best way to keep your personal identifying information safe is never to provide any personal identifying information, including bank and credit card numbers, to any third party unless you are comfortable doing business with them and you initiated the contact. Never provide personal identifying information in response to any unsolicited mailing or contact!

CONTACT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S CONSUMER PROTECTION DIVISION

If you have paid a third party to obtain government records on your behalf, and you are concerned about their service, consider contacting the Michigan Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140
Fax: 517-241-3771

Toll free: 877-765-8388

www.michigan.gov/ag (online complaint form)

A Job Offer Too Good To Be True

CONSUMER ALERT

BILL SCHUETTE
ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.

A Job Offer Too Good to be True—Widespread Counterfeit Check Scam Seeks “Charitable Donations Coordinators”

Searching for a job is a difficult and time-consuming task. A very popular way for Michigan consumers to search for jobs is through the use of job search websites, such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com, and HotJobs.com, among others. Consumers post their resumes on these sites hoping that employers will offer them the job of their dreams. Unfortunately, there are scammers capitalizing on the popularity of these job search sites to find their next victim. A recent, elaborate counterfeit check scam seeking “charitable donations coordinators” that leaves victims with empty bank accounts is described in this Consumer Alert.

How the Scam Works

A consumer posts a resume on a job search website and soon receives an email that is carefully crafted to look like a genuine job offer – but in reality, it is a trap designed to snare victims for an international counterfeit check ring.

The email bears the logo of the job search website and claims to originate from a global charity that has helped provide housing for thousands of people worldwide. The message provides a link to a website full of pictures, testimonials, and stories of good works and states the “charity” is looking for “local charitable donations coordinators” to process charitable contributions from donors in their area. The job applicants are promised a return of 5% to 7% of all donation checks they receive to “process” on behalf of the charity. The email even includes tax and salary information.

But why would an international charity give away money to local coordinators instead of accepting the checks directly?

This “job” sounds too good to be true.

This new – and very sophisticated – counterfeit check scam has lured many innocent, well-meaning consumers to disburse money out of their personal bank accounts not to charity but to criminals. Victims who respond to the email are instructed that they should deposit donation checks they will receive from the “charity” and forward the proceeds from their personal bank account to the organization via Western Union after deducting their “commission.”  When the victim receives the check, the charity warns that “time is of the essence” and  urges the victim not to delay in forwarding the money in order to allow innocent and needy people immediate access to the charity’s valuable assistance.

But there’s a catch – the scammers are banking on the delay between the time the victim deposits the bogus check and the notification to the victim’s bank that the check is bad.  In the meantime, the victim, believing the check to be valid, forwards the donation to the charity from his or her own account. After a few days or even weeks, the victim learns that the check was counterfeit. The victim is charged overdraft fees for excess withdrawals and may wind up several thousands of dollars in debt for performing “charitable” services. Some victims may even be charged criminally if law enforcement officials believe they were involved in the counterfeit check scam.

Although the fictitious charity names used by these scammers changes regularly, a few of the most recent names are listed below.  Beware – there are a great many counterfeit check scams operating at any given moment, so this list is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Abantehome.org;
  • Adeonahome.org;
  • Adriahome.org;
  • Alstedehome.org;
  • Amalia International, Amaliahome.org;
  • Concordia;
  • DWIO.org;
  • DIO;
  • PWHome; and
  • Public Wish.

Many of the scam websites use information, and even names of individuals, found on websites for legitimate charities, such as Habitat for Humanity, among others.

A Similar Scam

A similar fraud has been circulating by email in recent months. The contact telephone numbers given in these email messages are fraudulent – they do not match the numbers listed on the charities’ websites. This scam uses the names of British charitable organizations, including:

  • WellChild; and
  • Hope-for-Children

How to Protect Yourself

Counterfeit check scams and bogus job offers are nothing new. What is new is the sophistication of these scammers.

But you can take steps to protect yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Be extremely suspicious of all unsolicited email messages from unfamiliar sources. The Attorney General’s advice is not only not to respond, but to delete such messages without opening them.
  • Sometimes, a careful inspection of the websites given in the email messages will cause alarm, but even a careful inspection of a bogus website may not reveal a scam.  The best course remains – delete the email messages without opening them.
  • Interview and run background checks on all prospective employers the same way you would expect them to interview and run checks on you:
    • Do a Google or other online search for the prospective employer to see if there is anything posted about them that may warn you about a scam. There are consumer-oriented websites designed to warn consumers about scams, such as Ripoff Report among others. (The Michigan Department of Attorney General does not endorse or vouch for the accuracy of content on these sites.)
    • Run a company search on the Better Business Bureau’s website. If the company purports to be a charity, the BBB also allows you to search for charities by name.
    • Contact the Michigan Department of Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, at 877-765-8388 to see if there have been any complaints filed against this company.
  • If a charity refuses to send you any written information before you commit to taking a job or requires you to make a donation – beware!  Legitimate charities will not object to sending you written material about their organization before you commit to employment with them or give them a donation.
  • If an organization does not readily provide a valid street address and contact information (for example, if communication is done electronically only), this is also a warning sign. Again, most charities and other prospective employers have valid street addresses or some other type of contact information.
  • Beware of any company that presses you to advance money out of your own bank account – the mere fact that a check has “cleared” does not mean it is good! While the bank may make funds from the check available to you in a few days, it can take weeks before the forgery is uncovered and the check bounces.
  • If you insist on responding to job opportunities that sound like the one described above, inform your contact at the charity or company that you will not forward any money until the check they sent you clears. The contact person likely will not respond and will not contact you again.
  • If you believe you have encountered a counterfeit check scam similar to the one described above, please contact the Michigan Department of Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, and the United States Postal Inspector Service at the numbers listed below.
  • If you have given out personal information in response to an unsolicited email, review the consumer alerts on ID theft provided below.

The BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance has also prepared an alert on donation-processing scams, which can be accessed by visiting the Alliance’s home page. The BBB’s alert advises consumers:

  • Avoid all employment offers that require you to accept checks for deposit in your personal account and then forward payments to an overseas organization. Never divulge personal information on the Internet until you have checked out the potential charity employer. Unfortunately, con artists will use an identity that is difficult to verify, such as an overseas charity. If you are unable to find out more information about the charity employer from reliable sources, walk away.
  • If the organization claims to be a U.S.-based charity, ask it for a copy of its IRS Form 990, the financial report filed with federal and state governments. You also can check out the organization by contacting your state government’s charity registration office (usually a division of the state’s attorney general’s office), visiting the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (if a national charity), or if it is a local charity, visiting the BBB’s website to contact the Better Business Bureau in your area.
  • Don’t assume the charity is legitimate because of an impressive looking website that mentions well known personalities and/or official contacts.
  • Watch out for “red flags” in the job application process such as requests for your mother’s maiden name or your date of birth. These are not legitimate requests and the information obtained can be used to commit identify theft.

More Information for Consumers

Consumer Alerts on a variety of topics:

Contact the Attorney General and the U.S. Postal Inspector Service for Help

If you receive a job solicitation via email that is similar to the one described above, please report the email to the Michigan Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and the United States Postal Inspector Service. Be sure to provide the names of any websites included in the offer. You may reach these offices at:

Michigan Department of Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
517-373-1140
Toll free:  877-765-8388
Fax:  517-241-3771
Online complaint form
United States Postal Inspector Service
Criminal Investigations Service Center
Attn: Mail Fraud
222 S. Riverside Plaza, Ste. 1250
Chicago, IL 60606-6100
313-226-8184 (Detroit Office)

Sales Tax Application Scam

Michigan businesses beware:

A recent apparent scam involves an online company, Sales Tax Application Organization, that claims that taxpayers can apply for state sales tax numbers through it’s portal—for a fee and personal information.

The Sales Tax Application Organization’s web page lists 42 states under its Sales Tax Application Portal and Michigan is not on that list. However, if a user clicks on the online application, a dropdown menu appears that lists Michigan and shows a charge of $177 to process a sales tax application. For an additional, $97, you may request expedited same-day service with e-confirmation. Reports warn no service will be provided and your money will be gone. The website does not list an address, telephone number, owners or managers.

What you need to know:

There are only three ways to register for sales tax in Michigan: 1) online at the Michigan Treasury’s web portal: MTO; 2) by submitting a form 518 by mail; or 3) The Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board Inc. To learn more, read the Michigan Business Taxes Registration Booklet.

SPOT IT:

Waving red flag You receive an email with a link or an advertisement for an online service that, for a fee, will register your business to collect sales tax in Michigan.
Waving red flag Even fake business webpages may have an https:// or display medallions or certificates. If there is no way to verify an online business, do not do business with it.

STOP IT:

Waving red flag To register in Michigan or another state to collect state sales tax, check with the State Treasury first to verify how to do this.
Waving red flag Stay informed. Sign up to receive Consumer Alerts to prevent becoming a scam victim.

To report a scam, file a complaint, or get additional information, contact the Michigan Department of Attorney General:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
517-373-1140
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form

The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.

Phishing and Extortion Scams After Security Breaches

Attorney General Bill Schuette wants you to know about reports of a phishing and extortion scam using hacked information that came from a security breach. The Alert educates about how to SPOT and STOP this scam and, given the recent news about the security breach at Facebook, how to report suspicious Facebook emails and messages.

In the news:

A recent attack on Facebook’s computer network exposed the sensitive personal data of millions of users. That information could be used in phishing and extortion scams.

What you need to know

Phishing is a type of scam that starts with an email, text message, or phone call that pretends to be from a legitimate source. The message will tell a plausible story related to a need for you to verify or provide your personal information. The goal is to get you to enter your personal information into a fake website or extort money from you.

Phishing scammers try to get their hooks in you. Don’t take the bait. Learn the signs of a phishing scam and the steps you can take to avoid being scammed. Read our Consumer Alerts Fraudulent E-Mail Thieves Intend to Steal Your Personal Information and Data Breaches: What to Do Next.

Remember

These scams may use recently hacked data as well as data hacked years ago.

Recent extortion phishing scam

The Attorney General has received reports of a recent scam using hacked information threatening to expose the recipient’s alleged viewing of adult videos unless the sender is paid $1,000 in Bitcoin.  The email was fraught with misspelled words, grammar errors, and mismatched links. However, the email correctly cited the recipient’s password information for an online account.

Spot it: Watch out for phishing attempts.

Waving red flagLook for messages with misspellings, typos, and bad grammar.

Waving red flagLook for messages that use your password or some of your personal information.

Waving red flagLook for mismatched links that you can spot by hovering your mouse over a link that does not match the stated destination.

Waving red flagBeware any unsolicited message that asks you to click on a link, open an attachment, or verify your personal information.

STOP it: Consider what you share and who you share your personal information with.

Waving red flagNever reply to emails, calls, texts, or pop-ups that ask for verification or your personal information.

Waving red flagReview your privacy settings and take advantage of Facebook’s security options.

Waving red flagChange your passwords and security questions: do not recycle old passwords.

Waving red flagReport suspicious emails and Facebook messages to phish@fb.com.

To report a scam, file a complaint, or get additional information, contact the Michigan Department of Attorney General:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
517-335-7599
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form

The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.

Schuette’s Consumer Protection Team Holds Events Statewide in November

The Department of Attorney General offers free programs and events throughout the month

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is encouraging Michigan residents to learn more about being a savvy consumer. The Department of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division is offering a variety of educational programs throughout the month of November aimed at keeping Michigan consumers safe and up-to-date on the latest scams.

THE NOVEMBER PROGRAMS INCLUDE:

  • Home Repair & Improvement – Learn the telltale signs of home repair scams, unscrupulous contractors, and how to navigate the home improvement process.
  • Phone, Mail, & e-Scams – Learn the signs of scams prevalent in phone calls, mail, email, and texts, along with steps to take to minimize your risk of being victimized.
  • Identity Theft – Learn about the signs of identity theft, how to protect your personal information online and off, and what to do if you become an identity theft victim
  • Online Safety – Learn how to protect your devices, money, and personal information while online. Also provides information on how to avoid common and emerging online scams.
  • In Home Care & Senior Residences – Learn about resources available to help you make the best decisions regarding care for yourself or your loved ones at home or in a senior residence.
  • Investment Fraud – Learn how to recognize fraudulent investments and obtain objective facts about reverse mortgages and annuities. Also provides information on how to investigate both the seller and the product before investing.

CONSUMER PROTECTION EDUCATION NUMBERS

In 2017, the Department of Attorney General presented 723 consumer protection programs reaching 14,535 consumers. So far in 2018, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has held more than 550 events educating more than 10,000 consumers.

OTHER CONSUMER PROGRAMS

In addition to the free educational programs, the Consumer Protection Division also publishes an electronic quarterly newsletter. To sign up to receive the newsletter or schedule a local presentation, visit the Attorney General’s website.

Schuette is also dedicated to protecting children across the state of Michigan, and his office runs safety programs like OK2SAY and Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (CSI). These programs inspire Michigan students to share and respond to student safety threats and break the code of silence. In the 2017-2018 school year, more than a quarter of a million attendees went to an OK2SAY/CSI presentation.

To schedule a student safety presentation for the 2018-2019 school year, visit the OK2SAY website.

REGISTER FOR A CONSUMER EDUCATION PRESENTATION

Consumer Education Presentations are available for your group, club, or class on the topics outlined above.

To register for a presentation, please complete the online registration form. You may also print a copy of the registration form and submit it to the following address:

Michigan Department of Attorney General Consumer Protection Division P.O. Box 30213 Lansing, MI 48909

State Police Encourage Michiganders to Make Winter Emergency Preparedness a Priority Winter Hazards Awareness Week is Nov. 4-10

LANSING, MICH. With winter weather approaching, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) is encouraging Michigan residents to make winter emergency preparedness a priority.

“Winter is well on its way here in Michigan and now is the time to prepare,” said Capt. Emmitt McGowan, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “By taking a few extra steps, you will ensure that you and your family are ready before winter weather strikes.”

Severe winter weather poses health and safety concerns with cold temperatures, freezing pipes, potential propane shortages and power outages. Michiganders should consider the following actions to be prepared for the winter months.

To prepare your home for winter:

  • Weatherproof your home by installing weather stripping and caulking and insulating walls, doors and windows.
  • Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls, so pipes are less likely to freeze.
  • Lock in a propane rate now and have a backup heating plan, such as a generator, wood stove or fireplace.
  • Have gas or oil furnaces inspected by a qualified professional and change the air filter every two to four months.
  • Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected. Contact your local fire department for a referral or look for a local inspector online.
  • Install battery operated carbon monoxide (CO) detectors near sleeping areas. CO poisoning is more common in the winter months when furnaces are turned on and portable generators are often used for electricity during power outages.
  • Clean gutters to prevent ice dams from forming. Roof ice dams can cause water to build up, leading to interior damage.
  • Clear storm drains along the curb to enable water to drain. If plugged, water has the potential to go into low-lying areas and flood basements.
  • Have an emergency preparedness kit stored safely in your house that includes: water, nonperishable food, a first aid kit, extra batteries, a battery or hand-crank powered radio, emergency lighting or flashlights, extra blankets and warm clothing.

To prepare your vehicle for winter:

  • Have your radiator system serviced, replace windshield wipers and refill wiper fluid.
  • Replace any worn tires and check air pressure regularly.
  • Have your brakes, brake fluid, oil, car battery, heater and exhaust checked to make sure everything is running efficiently.
  • Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle stocked with batteries, battery powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, windshield scraper, jumper cables, mobile phone charger, shovel, blankets, first aid kit, non-perishable food and bottled water in the event you get stranded or stuck.

In support of statewide winter preparedness efforts, Gov. Rick Snyder has proclaimed Nov. 4-10 as Winter Hazards Awareness Week. For more tips, go to www.michigan.gov/miready or follow the MSP/EMHSD on Twitter at @MichEMHS.

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The Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division is responsible for coordinating state and federal resources to assist local government in response and relief activities in the event of an emergency or disaster, as well as coordinating homeland security initiatives and various federal grants.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Dale R. George, MSP/EMHSD Public Information Officer, 517-284-3962