Christine Bethea

Tax Scam Alert

October 11th, 2011 at 3:01 pm by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

We’re hearing of a tax scam in Suffolk where victims (mainly senior citizens) are being told that they are entitled to a rebate of up to $4000. The victim is told to get the last three year’s worth of 1099 statements from Social Security. Using the statements, the scam artist prepares three years worth of tax returns for a fee, reporting false information generating a bogus refund. We’ve been told the filing fee is around $25 per tax year. In many cases, the IRS will catch mistakes and not mail the bogus refund amount. If the bogus refund is mailed and the IRS discovers the discrepancies later, the taxpayer if forced to pay the money back…interest and penalties included.   

In the meantime, the scam artist has earned the filing fee(s) and can no longer be found.

The victim is not only out of the money they’ve spent on “filing fees”, but have also become candidates for identity theft.

 Please warn your loved ones about this scam. It is so easy to become enticed by this so called easy money.


Bathtubs, buckets and toilets- drowning hazards for young children

September 9th, 2011 at 3:30 pm by under 10 On Your Side, Uncategorized

Labor Day may have represented the end of pool season, however, the danger of drowning for young children is real all year long. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4. An April 2011 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that from 2005-2009, there were about 660 submersion incidents involving children younger than five years old in non-pool and non-spa products.  Bathtubs, buckets, and toilets are just a few examples of places around the home where a young child can drown if not monitored properly. The CPSC offers the following drowning prevention tips:

  •  Never leave young children alone near any water or tub or basin with fluid. Young children can drown in even small amounts of water.
  • Always keep a young child within arm’s reach in a bathtub. If you must leave, take the child with you.
  • Don’t leave a baby or young child in a bathtub under the care of another young child.
  • Never leave a bucket containing even a small amount of liquid unattended. Toddlers are top heavy and they can fall headfirst into buckets and drown. After using a bucket, always empty and store it where young children cannot reach it. Don’t leave buckets outside where they can collect rainwater.
  • Consider placing locks on toilet seat covers in case a young child wanders into the bathroom.
  • Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). It can be a lifesaver when seconds count.

Searching for a job online?

July 14th, 2011 at 12:09 pm by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

As the unemployment rate climbs, job seekers are cautioned as scammers have taken to posting bogus employment opportunities on line. “The goal of most employment scams is to get the victim to give away personal information making themselves vulnerable to identity theft or to pay upfront fees. While it can be exciting to be contacted for a job interview, job seekers should take a step back and look closely at all the details before responding”, said David Polino, Better Business Bureau President.

There is a case in New York where scammers actually posted a job on Craigslist for employment at The Better Business Bureau (BBB)!  A local job seeker received an email from the bogus BBB telling her that she was selected for a job interview. The email went on to say that “employees are paid via direct deposit” and directed her to click a link to sign up for their preferred banking institution – at no additional cost. Luckily, she didn’t fall for it.

The BBB offers the following tips when finding a job through online searches:

  • Exercise Caution. When using social networking sites like Facebook and online employment sites such as Craigslist, be sure to check the actual Web site of the company posting the position to verify it actually exists. If you don’t see it on their site, chances are it’s a scam.
  • Guard Your Resume. Some job seekers have uploaded their resume online but remember to make sure you only upload it for a legitimate purpose and company. Resumes often contain personal information, ripe for identity theft thieves.
  • Start with Trust. Many scams use names that are similar to reputable companies to trick job seekers. BBB recommends that job seekers check out the company first at bbb.org and to apply through the actual company site whenever possible.
  • Never Pay Upfront Fees. No legitimate job offer will require out of pocket expenses from a potential employee for background checks, credit reports or administrative fees before an interview.
  • Protect Personal Information. Job seekers should never provide their social security number or birth date until they have verified the position is legitimate. Additionally, job seekers should never provide bank account information for direct deposit setup until they have officially been hired.
  • Be Careful of the “Perfect Offer.” Job seekers should be cautious of any posting advertising extremely high pay for short hours or minimal required experience. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Avoid Work-at-Home Offers. Most jobs that imply you can work from home or rake in cash are a ploy to trap you into giving away your credit card information, cashing fake checks, or paying for training that should be free. Job seekers should understand employees working from home generally go through the traditional in-person interviews and hiring process and often have prior experience in what they are doing, work for a salary, or have spent time and money developing the market for their work.
  • Report Fraud. If you find a job scam or internet fraud, including Craigslist scams, report it to the BBB or file a complaint with them here. You can also contact the Internet Fraud Complaint Center at 800.251.3221 or go to www.ic3.gov.
  • For more information on finding a job and to check the reliability of any company, visit bbb.org.

Share this secret shopping scam

July 12th, 2011 at 10:37 am by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

 Being a secret shopper sounds like a quick and fun way to earn a little extra money on the side. However, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that some marketer’s promises are not all they’re cracked up to be. There are some secret shopper scams out there that if you’re not careful, instead of making money, you’ll be paying money. Here are just two common secret shopper scams I’ve heard about-

  •  You receive a check via FedEx made payable to you. It’s from a company who supposedly wants you to “hire” you as a secret shopper. You’ll think the check is up-front shopping money because, according to the instructions, you are to deposit the check and use the exact amount of funds to shop. You’ll find out later that the check was fraudulent and you will be responsible for paying the bank back.
  •  You’re “hired” to evaluate a money transfer service. You’ll receive a check that you are to deposit and then wire a specified amount of money via Western Union or MoneyGram to a third party. Again, you’ll find out later that the check was fraudulent and you will be responsible for paying the bank back.

 Calling the bank to verify the check is a good idea, but don’t count solely on that being the determining factor of you depositing the check. The issuer of the check could have a valid account, but no money to back the funds. Even if they do, the funds may not be there by the time YOUR check is deposited. 

As you can see, the checks look real. They are for large sums of money. They can be very tempting.

There was one lady who was sent “shopping money” because she’d inquired online how to become a secret shopper. She’d asked that more information on how to become a great secret shopper be mailed to her house. Instead, she started to receive checks made payable to her….. 

Bottom line here….NEVER deposit a check from someone you don’t know! 

For more information on secret shopper scams, check out the FTC’s website by clicking here. For more information on how to become a legitimate secret shopper, click here.


Hotel Scam Alert

June 28th, 2011 at 1:46 pm by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

Hotel guests down south are being scammed and the scam could be headed our way!

According to the Better Business Bureau of East Texas, hotel guests are being called, usually in the middle of the night, by scammers who obtain their credit card information over the phone. The scammers  tell the guest that they are a hotel employee who needs to verify their information, including their credit card number, because the hotel’s computer system has crashed. Guests have fallen for this scam because they say the callers are very convincing. The caller will even go so far as to offer a discount on the room for the inconvenience!

It  is not known where the call originates from. The scam artist could be a guest at the hotel or they could be calling from outside of the hotel.

With the upcoming three day weekend (for some!) and summer travel upon us, please be vigilante during any hotel stay. If someone who claims to be a hotel employee calls you in the middle of the night asking for credit card information, do not give it to them. Hang up, go back to sleep, and handle any billing discrepancies at the front desk the next morning! If they convince you that it’s urgent, hang up and call the hotel operator.


CRZY 4U

May 20th, 2011 at 11:33 am by under 10 On Your Side

 

Okay, so that was an easy one!

Next week the Commonwealth will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the vanity license plate. Introduced in 1981, the plates were first called CommuniPlates. Back then, Virginians were offered from two to six letters and/or numbers to express themselves. Then in 1988, the number of characters increased from six to seven. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that today more than a million plates in Virginia are personalized. That’s 13 percent of the total plate registrations. 

If you’re like me and love taking a guess when you see a vanity plate, you already know that some plates are harder than others to decipher…and for me, some are just down right difficult! What are some personalized plates you’ve seen and what did you read them as? I’m curious to see if others read it the same as you!

For more information on personalized plates, visit the DMV’s website at http://www.dmv.state.va.us/


Is that baby bird really an orphan?

May 16th, 2011 at 10:45 am by under Uncategorized

In the past few weeks 10 On Your Side has received a few calls and emails from viewers concerned about baby “orphaned” animals. Consider this from the Wildlife Center of Virginia website:

MANY, MANY baby animals brought to the Wildlife Center each year are not really “orphans” in need of the kind of hospital care that the Center provides. In fact, many animals brought to the Center are in need of no “help” from humans at all. They are young animals still receiving care from their parents, or young animals that are ready to live, and thrive, on their own. The Wildlife Center encourages those who care about wildlife to ask questions FIRST about the most appropriate course of action [see below]. Despite our natural inclinations, the BEST chance of survival for a young uninjured animal is often to leave it in its parents’ care.

Ron Messina with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries couldn’t agree more with the Wildlife Center of Virginia. He encourages people to “Leave the animals alone.” He points out that some baby animals may appear to be abandoned when really they are not. Messina points out the baby deer as an example. ”The mother of a fawn only checks on it twice a day. She does this because she wants to be careful as to not lead a predator to her baby.” 

On the other hand, if you have observed and are certain a baby animal has been abandoned, please contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Visit their website at www.wildlifecenter.org. The website tells you what to do should you find an injured/ orphaned animal. You can even phone them at (540) 942-9453 or shoot them an email at wildlife@wildlifecenter.org.

 10 On Your Side has also received a few calls from viewers who say they have witnessed cruelty to wild animals such as people shooting birds, geese and ducks with bb guns. Report this kind of treatment to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries crime-line by dialing 1-800-237-5712. 

Raising a wild animal in captivity is illegal unless you have both state and federal permits. If you are interested in becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, or your state’s wildlife agency.


Cooking Out, Grilling or BBQ’ing; whatever you call it…be safe at it!

May 12th, 2011 at 4:09 pm by under 10 On Your Side

 With Memorial Day around the corner and summer fast approaching, many will be firing up the grill for the first time since last summer. Cooking out? Grilling? BBQing? Propane? Charcoal? No matter the choice, let’s be safe out there. The National Fire and Protection Association (NFPA) reports that fire departments responded to an average of 7,700 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues in 2004–2008.  Some reminders-

  For both charcoal and gas grills

  • Use only outdoors.
  • Do not wear loose-fitting clothes or jewelry.
  • Tie long hair back away from flames.
  • Know how to get a flare up under control quickly. Keeping a fire extinguisher handy would be a good idea.
  • Clean your grill regularly. It only takes a few cookouts for the grease from the meats being cooked to build up in the bottom of the grill.
  • Place a safe distance from your house, garage, any over-hangs and trees. Your grill’s manual will probably have a minimum distance recommendation.
  • Keep pets and children away from grill.
  • Never leave grill unattended.

 

Charcoal grills

  • Never use in an enclosed area. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when the charcoal is burned. CO is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can be toxic when breathing high quantities of it.
  • Extinguish hot coals properly! Douse them with water while stirring to make sure all briquettes are covered.
  • Never dispose of coals if they are still hot. 
  • Be careful lighting the charcoal. Use an approved charcoal lighter fluid to start the fire. Never use gas or kerosene!

 Gas grills

  • Inspect your propane tank and hoses for leaks, cracks, corrosion and blockages. 
  • Do not attempt to repair a leaky gas valve yourself.
  • Do not throw damaged/empty propane tanks in the trash! Please find a local authority that can properly dispose of it.
  • Keep propane tanks far enough from the grill so that hot grease will not drip on the hoses, melting them while grilling. Most grills come with a space underneath the grill for storage.
  • Keep all flammable materials and liquids away from the gas grill.
  • Always shut off valve to propane tanks when not in use.

Like I said, the above are just a few reminders. Feel free to add more!

Now, back to my original question….what do you call it? Cooking Out, grilling or BBQ?


Gas. To Fill or Not to Fill?

April 29th, 2011 at 6:18 pm by under 10 On Your Side

 AAA Tidewater Virginia reports the number of out of gas calls have increased 36.8% so far this month in comparison to this same time last year. At nearly $4 a gallon, are gas prices too high? For sure! But in the end, driving with low fuel, driving on fumes, or running out of gas can ultimately cost you just as much (or more) as filling up at the pump. Did you know that driving on an empty tank can clog the fuel pump, the fuel filter or even the fuel injectors? Not having enough gas in you car can even cause the electric fuel pump inside the tank to overheat. The repair on the fuel pump alone can run $500 or more in parts and labor! And if you’re not watching the gas gauge carefully, low fuel can turn in to no fuel in minutes! You could run out of gas while in treacherous weather, while on a busy highway, or the ultimate for Hampton Roads…while in a tunnel?! Remember, it may seem resourceful in the beginning, but it could cost you lots in the end. So go ahead and filler’ up! Besides, the lower the gas tank gets, the more it’s going to cost to fill it back up!


Scam Alert!

April 14th, 2011 at 11:53 am by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

I heard of a scam going around and the way the scam was to occur sparked my interest. You see, normally the scam artist will contact you and tell you that you’ve won a lottery worth an outrageous amount of money. But in order for you to claim your prize, you need to wire some money somewhere. The scam artist will tell you how much money to wire and where to send it. They will tell you that the money you wired will be “refunded” within your winnings. You are to call them once you have wired the money so they can tell you the next step in claiming your winnings. Well, there is no next step. You’ve just wired the money to their account and have let them know that it is there. Scam complete.

Mr. David Washington, the scam artist this morning, told me that I’d won a BMW complete with one year’s prepaid insurance courtesy of Geico. But he was different because he didn’t tell me to wire money to claim my prize. He asked that I go to Walmart and purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card in the amount of $250. This was different because the Green Dot card is a prepaid, reloadable card that can be used like cash at several different retailers and for on-line purchases. I wasn’t “sending” anyone any money. At best, I would have a card loaded with $250 that I could spend almost anywhere. Now, here is the scam: Once I purchased the card, I was supposed to call Mr. David Washington back and give him the number listed on the back of the Green Dot card. Voila!! Instant cash for Mr. David Washington! Once you give the number listed on the back of the GreenDot card number out to anyone, you give access to the funds available on the card. Pretty sneaky huh?

This is from Green Dot MoneyPak’s website:

Here at Green Dot, we care about our customers and your hard-earned money, therefore, we want to remind you that the MoneyPak works just like cash. Fraudsters are always coming up with new ways to get your money. Would you give your cash or gift card to a stranger? Don’t give them your MoneyPak number either! Giving your MoneyPak number to someone you don’t know or a merchant that is not an approved partner puts you at risk of losing your money. The best way to protect yourself from being a fraud victim is to be aware of scams. Guard your MoneyPak Number like cash! Transactions cannot be reversed, so only give the number to approved MoneyPak partners. Green Dot is not responsible for the quality or non-receipt of any goods or services.

10 is On Your Side with the following advice to guard against scams:

- Remember if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

- Never wire or send money to secure winnings. 

- Never allow yourself to be rushed into a decision.  Scammers often try to rush decisions by limiting the offer time.  Always try to sleep on decisions or ask a friend about it.

- Always get agreements in writing

- If it seems suspicious, it probably is.  Notify the police.

Remember, EVERYONE IS A TARGET and you just have to be smarter than the scammer.

If you feel that you have fallen victim to a scam, 10 On Your Side recommends you immediately contact your local law enforcement and file a claim, file a complaint with The Better Business Bureau (BBB), and finally, spread the word about the scam.