Consumer Protection Division

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CONSUMER ALERTS AND NEWS

Friday, April 19, 2024

The NCDOJ was recently notified of a security breach involving AT&T that impacted more than 1.7 million North Carolinians. Data breaches make your personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank or credit card numbers, or other personal information vulnerable. And criminals will not hesitate to use this information to commit identity theft, putting you and your hard-earned money at risk. If your data is compromised in a security breach, North Carolina law requires that the company or agency who held the data let you and our office know. Last year, our office received 2,032 notices of data breaches that impacted 4,960,767 North Carolinians.

If you have been impacted by a security breach, like the AT&T breach, follow our tips to protect your personal information and lessen the risk of identity theft.

  • Check your affected accounts. Review the accounts compromised in the security breach and identify any suspicious activity. If your credit or debit card number is involved in the breach, you should request a new card with a different number and change your associated passwords.
  • Sign up for free credit monitoring. Some businesses or government agencies offer free credit monitoring services. Remember, never provide private information without verifying that the service is legitimate.
  • Request a fraud alert from one of the credit bureaus. This notifies banks and other creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. A fraud alert is free and will last 90 days unless you request an extended seven-year fraud alert and provide a police report.
  • Avoid using the same password across various accounts. If your username and password are compromised in a breach, using the same password could help a criminal gain more access to other personal information.
  • Monitor your credit. Identity thieves might not use your compromised information right away. Continue to monitor your credit report for signs of suspicious activity.
  • Consider a security freeze. A security freeze blocks an identity thief from opening new accounts or accessing credit in your name. You can learn more about security freezes here.

If you believe that you have been the victim of identity theft, contact our office’s Consumer Protection Division at www.ncdoj.gov/complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Reminder: Tax Day is Monday, April 15. With the deadline to file your taxes approaching, scammers will try to trick you out of your hard-earned money. Use our tips below to help protect yourself and your loved ones from tax season scammers.

  • Guard your personal information. Identity thieves can use your Social Security number to take out loans, open credit cards, or even collect your tax refund. Email is vulnerable to hackers, so avoid emailing your Social Security number or other confidential information to a tax preparer or accountant. If you’re using a website to file your taxes, make sure you confirm it is a secure site before entering any personal information.
  • Be wary of anyone who calls or emails you and offers to help with your taxes, demands tax payments, or claims to be with the IRS. The IRS will not call you directly or have law enforcement or another government agency call you on their behalf. If you get a call from someone claiming to work for a government agency, ask them for their name, identification number, and contact number. Then, hang up and look up and call a known contact number for that government agency to verify the call. Avoid anyone who demands you make immediate payments using methods like gift cards, money orders, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers.
  • Think twice before you opt for an instant refund. Some tax preparers and banks offer a refund anticipation check (RAC). This is a paid service for taxpayers who don’t have a bank account to use for direct deposit of their refund, or who don’t have the money to pay for tax preparation assistance. There’s a fee (typically about $30) to set up the RAC system. The preparer deducts that fee, their tax preparation charges, and other fees from the eventual refund. After all that, there may not be much of your actual refund left.
  • If you have questions about something a tax preparer tells you about your taxes, check it out. You can contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or the NC Department of Revenue at 1-877-252-4052.

Filing your taxes can be stressful, and it is easy to let the situation get the best of you. If you are unsure about something or something doesn’t feel right, always make sure to do your research first. If you believe you have been the victim of a tax scam, contact our office at 1-877-5-NOSCAM or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov/complaint.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Earlier this week, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office sent out a warning about a phone scam that’s been on the rise. People are receiving calls from someone claiming to be a Guilford County deputy who says they must pay a fine immediately to avoid being arrested. To make matters worse, the scammers have been using names of real deputies and spoofing the phone number to make it appear as if it’s coming from the sheriff’s office.

Law enforcement scams are a common way for scammers to intimidate people into paying money. Here’s what to remember:

  1. No legitimate law enforcement officer or government official is going to call you to threaten you with arrest or other legal consequences.
  2. Verify the caller. While spoofing is less common than it used to be, scammers can still use technology to make a call appear as if it’s coming from an authentic source. It’s better to hang up, look up the agency’s number on your own, and then call them back.
  3. Never pay someone who wants payment through gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. It’s usually a scam, and once the money is gone, it’s hard to get it back.
  4. Try not to panic. It’s understandably scary to get a call from a law enforcement officer telling you that you may be arrested, but don’t act out of fear. Take a moment and assess the situation. Call someone you trust or our office 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

If you do receive such a call from a scammer, hang up and report it to local law enforcement, or file a complaint with our office at www.ncdoj.gov/complaint.

Attorney General Josh Stein announced new actions to protect North Carolina homeowners. Our office is suing Canary General Contracting and Design for defrauding homeowners in Charlotte. So far, our Consumer Protection Division has received 15 complaints about the business and North Carolinians have reported more than $250,000 in financial losses. Attorney General Stein also announced the launch of an investigation into RealPage, a real estate software company, over concerns about anticompetitive conduct to raise the cost of rental housing.

We know that it takes a lot of time, effort, and money to buy or invest in a home. Use our tips to make sure that you are protecting yourself and your wallet from scammers trying to take advantage of you.

  • Vet a business before you hire them. Ask friends and neighbors for their recommendations. Look for reputable companies online through the Better Business Bureau and check if a contractor has complaints against them by calling our office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
  • Compare estimates. Before you hire a repair company or contractor, get at least three estimates from different companies and compare them. Once you’ve selected the company you want to hire, make sure you agree to a contract in writing. And don’t pay upfront for work – make sure you are satisfied before you pay.
  • Keep in mind that a contractor must be licensed by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors if the contractor does projects costing $40,000 or more. The Licensing Board can tell you if a particular contractor is licensed.
  • Make sure to do your research before you sign the lease agreement. Look up the landlord or company you are planning to rent from and make sure they look legitimate.
  • You can learn more tips for North Carolina homeowners and renters here.

If you think you or somebody you know has been the victim of a scam, contact our office’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at https://ncdoj.gov/complaint.

As the student loan landscape continues to evolve, borrowers face shifting deadlines, confusion, and uncertainty. As of September 1, 2023, the student loan payment pause has been lifted. Interest is again accruing on federal student loans and payments come due starting in October. Return to repayment—along with other developments on student loans—will give scammers an opportunity to try to trick borrowers into handing over their money or personal information.

Borrowers must stay alert and take steps to protect their finances. Follow these tips to protect yourself from student loan scams when return to repayment begins:  Read More…

 Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been all over the news as we all grapple with how it will impact our lives. Some forms of AI might make some tasks easier, but as with any new technology, scammers will try to use it to deceive people. Scammers are already at it; they’re using AI to mimic the voice of a loved one who claims to be in a distressing situation, tricking their victims into sending money or personal information. Commonly, scammers use AI in kidnapping scams by mimicking the voice of a kidnapped family member and demanding a bogus ransom payment.   Read More…..

 The horrific stories we are all reading about Saturday’s attack in Israel are hard to process, but our hearts go out to the innocents. During a crisis like this, you may want to donate to relief efforts. Unfortunately, scammers will stop at nothing to take advantage of people, even those who want to help, so please be aware of charity scams and make sure your money is going where you intend it to go. Below are some tips to keep in mind before you donate.   Read More…..

 

Have you gotten into cryptocurrency? Here’s a new angle to watch out for: exchanging your currency. Exchanges can sometimes lead to money loss – and are further exacerbated by so-called recovery services that trick people who have lost money or crypto. Some recovery services try to convince you they can get your money back by impersonating the government, a company, or any other organization. Others are actual businesses that may be able to trace where the crypto went, but they have no way of recovering your lost assets. These businesses generate an impressive looking packet describing their tracing efforts, but in the end, the money you pay them for their “service” yields no recovery.

At first, the scammer will appear to be knowledgeable, organized, and trustworthy while convincing you they can get all your money back. They will either ask for a fee for their services or ask for your financial information to put the lost funds back into your account. Either of these will result in further losses that are largely irreversible.

Here’s what you can do to avoid cryptocurrency recovery scams:  Read More…

Current and former North Carolina servicemembers and people living in and around military bases in North Carolina should apply for refunds if they made a purchase from Harris Jewelry since 2014. Harris Jewelry was a national jewelry retailer that operated retail stores in and on military bases, including in Fayetteville near Fort Bragg and Jacksonville near Camp Lejeune.

Attorney General Josh Stein won a $34.2 million multistate settlement with Harris Jewelry in 2022, and many former customers are still eligible for some or total refunds, but they may not know it.

Here’s what you should do if you’ve bought anything from Harris Jewelry since 2014:  Read More…

 After Tropical Storm Idalia passed through North Carolina this week, several areas of coastal and eastern North Carolina were flooded and suffered storm damage. As North Carolinians begin to recover from the effects of the storm, scammers are out in full force trying to take advantage. And we’re still in the middle of hurricane season, so here are some good tips to remember during natural disasters: Read More…

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