For many consumers, the tax filing season is “taxing” enough without having to worry about whether they’re being scammed during the process.
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), they are seeing a surge of scam artists impersonating tax agents, contacting taxpayers by phone and demanding money from them.
“There are a couple of things that should set off red flags for taxpayers,” said Franchise Tax Board (FTB) spokesperson Jacob Roper. “The first is beware of anyone calling and asking you to pay your due balance via pre-loaded debit cards. The second is threatening to send the local police to your home to arrest you if you don’t comply.”
Roper adds that scammers also prey on the elderly knowing that their “strong sense of civic duty” will often scare them into paying.
“When consumers receive a call from an FTB employee, generally it will be only after they have received one or more notices,” adds Roper. “The best way for consumers to avoid these scams is to know the scammers schemes and keep your guard up.”
Unfortunately, being vigilant against these scammers isn’t always easy. The callers are aggressive and threatening. Remember, neither the IRS nor FTB will ever:
- Call and demand immediate payment and threaten arrest.
- Call without giving consumers an opportunity to discuss a potential tax dispute.
- Call and ask for your credit card numbers.
- Call and ask for payment via pre-paid debit cards.
Additionally, before the FTB calls a taxpayer, Roper says the agency mails notices to those with tax issues. These notices not only provide consumers the opportunity to voluntarily resolve outstanding tax liability, they also inform them of their legal rights and responsibilities.
Consumers, who believe a call is a scam, should hang up the phone immediately and report the scam to the IRS. You can also call 800.852.5711 to inquire about the status of your account or to verify if the caller is indeed an FTB employee.
The IRS website at www.irs.gov has additional information to help consumers recognize scams as well as tips on avoiding becoming a tax scam victim.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Board of Accountancy is also a good tax resource for consumers. Did you know that California is one of the few states that has mandatory requirements for professional tax preparers?
State law requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee to be either an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) registered tax preparer (CRTP) or an enrolled agent (EA).
Choosing a tax preparer who is not one of those four professionals may prevent you from legal recourse against any type of tax fraud. It may also increase your chances for additional taxes, interest and fines. Always verify the legal status of a tax preparer before handing over your private tax information.
For more information about the California Board of Accountancy, visit their website at www.dca.ca.gov/cba.
At first it sounds convenient and cost-effective—go online, get your eyes tested, and in exchange for a fee, you receive a prescription. You take that prescription wherever you want and get your glasses or contacts. No appointments, no fuss. Over and done.
However, be aware that perfect vision doesn’t necessarily mean healthy eyes. Substituting an online refractive test for a comprehensive eye exam can mean key issues could be missed and you could be putting your eye health—and possibly your overall health—at serious risk.
An online refractive test is a service provided through a website. They are vision tests used to determine the appropriate lens power necessary to correct your vision. You take a brief test online for a fee, then receive a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses from a California-licensed ophthalmologist.
The California State Board of Optometry (Board) is one of the many healthcare-related boards that operate under the Department of Consumer Affairs. The Board, which licenses and regulates optometrists and the optometry profession, believes that routine, comprehensive eye exams are crucial. Comprehensive eye exams can reveal serious health issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinal tears and scarring, eye infections, and dry eye syndrome—conditions that cannot be checked or detected by an online refractive exam.
For more information, contact the Board of Optometry by phone at (916) 575-7170 or toll-free at (866) 585-2666, or visit the Board’s website, www.optometry.ca.gov.
Looking to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft and scams? Maybe you’re wondering about the best way to use credit, shop for a used car, or maximize your security online.
National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is an education campaign involving private and public organizations working together to give all consumers the skills and knowledge they need to ensure their interactions in the marketplace are safe and successful. This week, we’ve shared many consumer protection resources the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) offers, and we encourage you to continue learning more. As NCPW wraps up, DCA wants to remind consumers that our resources and programs are available any time of year.
An informed consumer is a protected consumer. Learn more at www.dca.ca.gov. Also, see our complete list of free publications at http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/publications_list.shtml and follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @DCAnews.
For years you’ve heard our “check the license” mantra repeated over and over. Why? Because it’s one way consumers can protect themselves from unscrupulous operators.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about people who have had bad contractor experiences, whether it’s sloppy workmanship, major cost overruns or even worse, a contractor who takes your money upfront and doesn’t return to do any work.
Now, during National Consumer Protection Week (#NCPW2016), we are once again reminding consumers to “check the license.” It’s easier than ever! Just look for the new “License Search” button on the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) home page (www.dca.ca.gov) and also on the websites of our more than 40 boards and bureaus.
DCA provides current license status information on the more than 2.8 million professionals licensed or certified through our boards and bureaus. Licensing ensures that practitioners perform their duties to an acceptable standard and provides consumers with a remedy if a service is not delivered. For example, if you’re planning on enlisting the services of a contractor for some home remodeling, a quick license search will tell you if that contractor’s license is in good standing and if he or she is insured and bonded. Some bonds are designed to protect you against substandard work that does not meet local building codes. General liability insurance offers protection in case of accidental damage and workers’ compensation insurance covers employees in case of injury.
What else can you do to protect yourself from phony contractors and getting ripped off? Check the company’s status with your local Better Business Bureau, and ask friends and family for reputable referrals.
For more information, visit http://www.dca.ca.gov.
National Consumer Protection Week spotlights free resources, programs to help consumers
The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is proud to be a partner during the 18th annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. This year, NCPW (#NCPW2016) runs from March 6 through 12, so stay tuned to this blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for great tips all week!
Being a savvy consumer is a year-round pursuit. Here are some of the ways DCA helps:
Licensing for protection
Through its boards, bureaus, committees and other entities, DCA regulates many industries and the people licensed to work in them. Licensing tells you that the person you are dealing with has met certain qualifications and levels of competency and offers a remedy if a service is not delivered or work is not acceptable.
To verify a license, call the Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210, or visit the DCA website at www.dca.ca.gov and click on the “License Search” button. Consumers can file complaints against licensees by contacting DCA at (800) 952-5210 or online at www.dca.ca.gov.
Consumer education and enforcement
Licensing is only part of the story. DCA promotes and protects the interests of California consumers in other ways as well.
Through award-winning consumer publications, social media, blogs and community outreach events, DCA staff educates consumers by giving them the information they need to avoid unscrupulous or unqualified people who promote deceptive or unsafe services.
DCA also advocates consumer interests before lawmakers and enforces consumer laws. Its enforcement staff works with the Attorney General’s Office and local district attorneys to fight fraud in the marketplace. Many investigations are initiated as the result of complaints from consumers. If DCA determines wrongdoing, it can place licensees on probation, or suspend or revoke licenses.
When a dispute arises between a customer and a business in certain industries under DCA’s jurisdiction, alternative methods are available for resolving complaints without going to court in which the involved parties can work out a solution with the help of a mediator.
Learn more on our website at www.dca.ca.gov or get our publication titled, Who We Are & What We Do. For a free printed copy, call the DCA Publications Hotline at (866) 320-8652. Find more resources at www.ncpw.gov or #NCPW2016.
Southland Psychologist was accused of having sexual relations with a patient
SACRAMENTO – A psychologist has agreed to surrender her license after she was accused of sexual misconduct with a patient while she was a director of two recovery centers where the patient was being treated.
Read the entire news release here.
The California State Athletic Commission responds in opposition to International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) decision to allow professional boxers to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Read the press release here.
In Chinese medicine, health is believed to be from qi (pronounced “chee”), the free flow of energy in your body. Acupuncturists believe disruptions in this flow are what cause illnesses and ailments, and that the placement of needles in strategic places on the body can provide healing and relief by unblocking the energy flow.
Terri Thorfinnson, Executive Officer of the California Acupuncture Board (Board), says “The foundations of acupuncture focus on restoring balance to the patient. Acupuncture is the healing aspect of our health care system … [and] plays an essential role in health and wellness.”
According to the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center, acupuncture can be used to treat conditions such as:
- Side effects of cancer treatment
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Sports injuries
- Women’s reproductive health issues
Thorfinnson adds that acupuncture can also be used to treat diabetes, allergies, immune disorders, and addiction.
Acupuncturists in California are licensed and regulated by the Board. To qualify as a licensed acupuncturist, the applicant must complete specific education, training, and exam requirements.
For more information about acupuncture, read the fall 2015 Consumer Connection article on the Department of Consumer Affairs website, www.dca.ca.gov/publications/newsletter/fall2015.pdf and visit the Board’s website, www.acupuncture.ca.gov.
The California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT) announces the appointment of Dr. Kameka L. Brown as its new Executive Officer, effective March 2, 2016.
Read the press release here.
The New Year brings with it new laws that will impact most all Californians. One of the most significant new laws on the medical front involves prescription drugs. Assembly Bill 1073 requires California pharmacists to provide translations of prescription instructions in the most common languages other than English. They include: Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Korean.
Assembly Bill 1073 will benefit residents in California with limited proficiency in English and help them to gain better healthcare access and information. California will now join New York as the only other state in the nation to require pharmacists to provide non-English medication information.
Here are some additional laws that will affect consumers.
- SB254-–Mattress Recycling: California and Connecticut are the only states in the nation that currently offer a recycling program for used mattresses and box springs. Residents can find their nearest participating collection site or recycling facility by visiting www.byebyemattress.com.
- B604–Hoverboard Law: There’s a law for that shiny, new Hoverboard you got for Christmas. For starters, you must be at least 16 years old to ride it. Wearing a helmet is also required while operating the Hoverboard on highways, bikeways, or other public bicycle path, sidewalk, or trails.
- SB675—Hospital Patient Discharges—This law enables hospitals to take specified actions relating to family caregivers, including, among others, notifying the family caregiver of the patient’s discharge or transfer to another facility. They also must provide information and counseling regarding the post-hospital care needs of the patient, but only if the patient has consented to the disclosure of this information.
- SB277—Child Vaccinations—This new State law requires that schoolchildren must be fully vaccinated to attend public or private school, regardless of their parents’ personal or religious beliefs. Parents can no longer demand “personal belief exemptions” from immunization after Jan. 1.
- SB270—Grocery Store Bags–Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out at checkout counters at large grocery stores and supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers. However, it does allow grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.
- AB10–Minimum Wage Law– California’s minimum wage went up from $9 to $10-an-hour. State lawmakers passed the minimum wage increase in 2013, raising it to $9 in July 2014 and $10 beginning January 1, 2016.