Tag Archives: FTC

Report tax identity theft with IdentityTheft.gov

If you’re a tax professional, business owner, or in a human resources department, the FTC and IRS can help you help clients, employees, or other people who discover they’re victims of tax-related identity theft.IdentityTheft.gov website on a laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

 Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses your stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return and claim your refund. You might find out about it when you try to e-file — only to find that someone else already has submitted a return — or when the IRS sends you a letter saying it has identified a suspicious tax return that used your SSN. That’s when you’ll need to file an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039), so that the IRS can begin resolving your case.

 Until now, you had to complete an Affidavit from the IRS website, print it, then fax or mail it to the IRS. Now, the FTC and IRS have collaborated to let people report tax-related identity theft to the IRS online, using the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website. It’s the only place you can submit your IRS Form 14039 electronically.

 What are the benefits? IdentityTheft.gov will:

Walk you through the process of completing the Form 14039

  • Transfer your Form 14039 to the IRS securely
  • Guide you through placing fraud alerts on your credit files, checking your credit reports, and taking other steps to stop the tax identity theft from harming your accounts, and
  • Help you resolve any other problems the tax identity theft may have caused.

Here’s how it works: IdentityTheft.gov will first ask you questions to collect the information the IRS needs, then use your information to populate the Form 14039 and let you review it. Once you’re satisfied, you can submit the Form 14039 to the IRS through IdentityTheft.gov and download a copy for yourself. About 30 days later, the IRS will send you a letter confirming it received the information.

Remember, though — filing the Affidavit doesn’t eliminate the need to pay your taxes. If you couldn’t e-file your tax return, you’ll still need to mail it to the IRS and pay any taxes you owe.

You may share this information with any victims of tax-related identity theft you encounter and remind them to visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the problem and get recovery help.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Investing in Bitcoin – Cryptocurrencies

Clients have been asking me about investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently provided some helpful advice.  ftc-seal

You do your best to keep up with the latest financial news. You’ve been hearing more about cryptocurrencies and asking yourself “Hmmm.” Of course, it’s not just Bitcoin. There are now hundreds of cryptocurrencies, which are a type of digital currency, on the market. They’ve been publicized as a fast and inexpensive way to pay online, but many are now also being marketed as investment opportunities. But before you decide to purchase cryptocurrency as an investment, here are a few things to consider:

  • Cryptocurrencies aren’t backed by a government or central bank. Unlike most traditional currencies, such as the dollar or yen, the value of a cryptocurrency is not tied to promises by a government or a central bank.
  • If you store your cryptocurrency online, you don’t have the same protections as a bank account. Holdings in online “wallets” are not insured by the government like U.S. bank deposits are.
  • A cryptocurrency’s value can change constantly and dramatically. An investment that may be worth thousands of dollars on Tuesday could be worth only hundreds on Wednesday. If the value goes down, there’s no guarantee it will rise again.
  • Nothing about cryptocurrencies makes them a foolproof investment. Just like with any investment opportunity, there are no guarantees.
  • No one can guarantee you’ll make money off your investment. Anyone who promises you a guaranteed return or profit is likely scamming you. Just because the cryptocurrency is well-known or has celebrities endorsing it doesn’t mean it’s a good investment.
  • Not all cryptocurrencies or the companies behind them are the same. Before you decide to invest in a cryptocurrency, look into the claims the company is making. Do an internet search with the name of the company and the cryptocurrency with words like review, scam, or complaint. Look through several pages of search results.

Read more about Investing Online.

Want to learn more about the technology underlying cryptocurrencies? See my earlier blog post Blockchain Technology Overview https://blog.princelaw.com/2018/02/07/blockchain-technology-overview/

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Online Dating and Relationship Scams

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, but if an online love interest asks you for money, it’s probably a scam.online-dating-scams-3_350

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who create fake online relationships only to rob their victims.

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites and chat rooms to meet people, but scammers use them too, and eventually the scammers ask for money.

The FTC’s new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, lists common signs of online dating scams and how to handle them.

How to Recognize a Scam

The relationship may not be what you think, especially if your sweetheart:

  • wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or IM
  • claims love in a heartbeat
  • claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas
  • plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour

Scammers also like to say they’re out of the country for business or military service.

What You Can Do About It

You may lose your heart, but you don’t have to lose your shirt, too. Don’t wire money to cover:

  • travel
  • medical emergencies
  • hotel bills
  • hospital bills for a child or other relative
  • visas or other official documents
  • or losses from a temporary financial setback

Don’t send money to tide someone over after a mugging or robbery, and don’t do anyone a favor by making an online purchase or forwarding a package to another country. One request leads to another, and delays and disappointments will follow. In the end, your money will be gone along with the person you thought you knew.

Report relationship scams to:

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week January 29-February 2

It is tax time.  The tax scammers are gearing-up.  Learn how to protect yourself during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week January 29-February 2, 2018.IRS

Tax identity theft occurs when a person uses someone else’s Social Security number to either file a tax return and claim the victim’s refund, or to earn wages that are reported as the victim’s income, leaving the victim with the tax bill.

The Federal Trade Commision, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and others throughout the week are hosting free webinars and Twitter chats focused on steps consumers and businesses can take to help avoid tax identity theft and recover if it occurs. There will also be discussions about ways to identify and avoid IRS imposter scams that target consumers and businesses.

The events include:

  • January 29 at 2 p.m. ET: A webinar for consumers on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, how to protect yourself, and how to recover, co-hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center.
  • January 30 at 2:30 p.m. ET: A webinar for older adults and other consumers on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, co-hosted by the FTC, AARP Fraud Watch Network, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
  • January 31 at 11 a.m. ET: A Twitter chat for service members, veterans, and their families, co-hosted by the FTC and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Join the conversation at #VeteranIDTheft.
  • January 31 at 1 p.m. ET: A closed webinar co-hosted by the FTC, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, focused on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams. This webinar is only available to Veterans Administration employees and patients.
  • February 1 at 1 p.m. ET: A webinar for small businesses, Protecting Sensitive Business and Customer Data: Practical Identity Safety Practices for Your Business, co-hosted by the FTC and IRS focused on tax identity theft, imposter scams targeting businesses, cybersecurity practices to reduce your risk, and data breach response.
  • February 1 at 3 p.m. ET: A Twitter chat for consumers on protecting yourself from tax identity theft, co-hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center. Join the conversation at #IDTheftChat.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Tech Support Fraudsters to Pay

A federal court ordered that the assets of the operators of an alleged tech support scam be used to reimburse consumers who lost money to the defendants’ scheme.

US District Court ED PAThe U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agreed with the FTC, the State of Connecticut, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that the money held by a court-ordered receiver was acquired by the defendants “through fraud and other improper means” and should be used for the benefit of consumer victims.

ftc

The FTC alleged that the defendants used Internet ads and popups that claimed to be from major tech companies like Microsoft and Apple to trick consumers into calling the defendants and buying tech support services.

In May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Connecticut and Pennsylvania announced settlements with Bruce Bartolotta, Click4Support, LLC, Spanning Source LLC, George Saab, Chetan Patel and Niraj Patel as well as Innovazion Inc., Innovazion Research Private Limited, Abhishek Gagneja, and Rishi Gagneja. Under the settlements, the defendants are banned from marketing technical support services and agreed to pay a total of more than $554,000 and to forfeit $1.3 million held by the receiver. The settlements were announced as part of the Operation Tech Trap initiative, an international crackdown of tech support scams announced by the FTC in May.

Consumers who believe they were victims of the tech support services operated by the defendants can file a consumer complaint with the FTC by visiting www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or by calling (877) 382-4357.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Did the FCC Just Kill the Internet?

ftc_logo_430Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen issued the following statement in response to today’s vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the Restoring Internet Freedom Order regarding net neutrality:

“The FCC’s action today (December 14, 2017) restored the FTC’s ability to protect consumers and competition throughout the Internet ecosystem. The FTC is ready to resume its role as the cop on the broadband beat, where it has vigorously protected the privacy and security of consumer data and challenged broadband providers who failed to live up to their promises to consumers. In addition, the FCC’s new transparency rules provide additional tools to help ensure that consumers get what they expect from their broadband providers, who will be required to disclose their traffic management practices. The Memorandum of Understanding establishes a framework for FTC-FCC cooperation. Together we will move ahead to protect consumers and help ensure they enjoy the many benefits of online innovation.”

So did the FCC just kill the internet?  Probably not, but time will tell.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding communications law, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Fraud alert, freeze or lock after Equifax?

After the Equifax breach, clients and friends have been coming to us with questions. Some people are considering placing a fraud alert on their credit file. Others are thinking about freezing or locking their credit files to help prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in their name. Here are some FAQs to help you think through your options.

FRAUD ALERT

  • What is it? A fraud alert requires companies to verify your identity before extending new credit. Usually that means calling you to check if you’re really trying to open a new account.
  • How does it work? The process is easy – you contact any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and that one must notify the other two.
  • How long does it last? An initial fraud alerts last 90 days. After 90 days, you can renew your alert for an additional 90 days, as many times as you want. Military who deploy can get an active duty alert that lasts one year, renewable for the period of deployment. Identity theft victims (whose information has been misused, not just exposed in a breach) are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which lasts seven years.
  • How much does it cost? Fraud alerts are free.
  • Is this for me? With a fraud alert, you keep access to your credit and federal law protects you. But an initial fraud alert lasts only 90 days and then you’ll need to remind yourself to renew it every 90 days.

CREDIT FREEZE

  • What is it? A credit freeze limits access to your credit file so no one, including you, can open new accounts until the freeze is lifted.
  • How does it work? To be fully protected, you must place a freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies. Freezes can be placed by phone or online. You’ll get a PIN to use each time you freeze or unfreeze, which may take one to three business days.
  • How long does it last? A freeze lasts until you temporarily lift or permanently remove it (except in a few states where freezes expire after seven years).
  • How much does it cost? Fees are set by state law. Generally, it costs $5 to $10 each time you freeze or unfreeze your account with each credit reporting agency. You can get a free freeze if you are an identity theft victim, or in some states, if you’re over age 62. Equifax is offering free freezes until January 31, 2018.
  • Is this for me? Freezes are generally best for people who aren’t planning to take out new credit. Often, that includes older adults, people under guardianship, and children. People who want to avoid monthly fees also may prefer freezes over locks.

CREDIT LOCK

  • What is it? Like a freeze, a credit lock limits access to your credit file so no one, including you, can open new accounts until you unlock your credit file.
  • How does it work? Like a freeze, to be fully protected, you must place locks with all three credit reporting agencies. With locks, however, there’s no PIN and usually no wait to lock or unlock your credit file (although the current Equifax lock can take 24 to 48 hours). You can lock and unlock on a computer or mobile device through an app – but not with a phone call.
  • How long does it last? Locks last only as long as you have an ongoing lock agreement with each of the credit reporting agencies. In some cases, that means paying monthly fees to maintain your lock service.
  • How much does it cost? Credit reporting agencies can set and change lock fees at any time. As of today, Equifax offers free locks as part of its free post-breach credit monitoring. Experian and TransUnion may charge monthly fees, often about $20.
  • Is this for me? Depending on your particular lock agreement, your fees and protections may change over time. So, if you sign up for a lock, it’s hard to be sure what your legal protections will be if something goes wrong later. Also, monthly lock fees can quickly exceed the cost of freezes, especially if the lock fees increase over time.

The FTC has more information for consumers about protecting their identity, including Credit freeze FAQsFraud alert or credit freeze – which is right for you, and Free freezes from Equifax. Also, check out the FTC’s resource page about the Equifax data breach. And if your personal information has been misused,  visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get a personal recovery plan.

Initial fraud alerts, credit freezes, and credit locks: What’s the difference?
What you should know about Initial fraud alerts Credit freezes Credit locks
Purpose Verify your identity before extending new credit Restricts access to credit file to prevent identity theft
Legal protections Based on federal law (Fair Credit Reporting Act) Based on state law Based on consumer’s lock agreement with each credit reporting agency (CRA)

Varies by CRA & may change over time

Fees Free
  • Free from Equifax until January 31, 2018
  • Free for id theft victims & in some states free for people over age 62
  • Otherwise, $5-$10 per credit reporting agency (CRA) each time you freeze or unfreeze
  • Free from Equifax, as part of free credit monitoring service
  • Otherwise, CRAs may charge monthly fees
  • Monthly fees may change
Links Place a fraud alert with any one of the three:

Place a credit freeze with all three:

Place a credit lock with all three:

Turning them on and off A fraud alert:

  • Lasts 90 days
  • Can be renewed for free for an additional 90 days, as many times as you want
To freeze or unfreeze:

  • Online or by phone
  • Requires a PIN
To lock or unlock:

  • Online only
  • No PIN required

Downloadable PDF version

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding disaster preparedness, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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