2016 Fraud and Scam Alerts

Sadly, while reports of scams and fraudulent activity were initially included with news items of interest on the site, it became clear that there were enough reports to merit a page of their own. Now we've collected enough to separate them by year, beginning in 2013. 

Tennessee seniors deserve better than to be victimized in what should be their golden years. The best defensive strategy is knowledge and awareness of criminal behavior. It is much harder for con artists to succeed if you shut them out. Visit this page regularly for tips on the latest scams, targets, and appropriate responses. In almost every case, the headline for each warning is a link back to the full, original report.

The Better Business Bureau maintains its Scam Tracker online. You may also find useful information on AARP's Scams and Frauds and Fraud Watch Network pages, as well as this site's own page on combating fraud. For information on reporting Medicare fraud, visit STOP Medicare Fraud's Report Fraud page. Additionally, reports and tips regarding fraud are available online from the Office of Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission.

And if you're here because you've already been a victim (or think you may be a victim) and want to know how to respond, visit: Scammed. Now What?


Sevierville Police Warn of Possible Wildfire Victim Fraud

WATE Channel 6 passes along a warning: People who were not East Tennessee wildfire victims may pretend to be victims and ask for your help. Just be careful if you are asked for help, and don't be afraid to ask questions. As the story points out, "There are many legitimate agencies, organizations and businesses that are providing much needed relief to the wildfire victims."

Not mentioned in the report but also important for wildfire area residents to remember: There are frequently people who, following any major disaster, will try to take advantage of disaster victims. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a list of things to watch out for, along with a contact number to question or report fraud.

FEMA wants you to know that:

  • Federal and state representatives carry photo identification. Ask to see it. If unsure, call FEMA to verify the employee at 800-621-3362 (FEMA) or TTY 800-462-7585.
  • If fraud is suspected, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. 

Added December 20, 2016


Police Warn Against Facebook "Secret Sister" Scam

This one hasn't appeared on our list before. You apparently receive an invitation to purchase a $10 gift and add your name to a list. You are told you will receive 36 gifts in return. It claims to be a gift exchange. According to a WKRN report, Cookeville police warn that this is nothing more than a variation on illegal chain letter schemes.

This is one of those things that sounds too good to be true, and it's usually best to walk away from an offer like that. Listen to you intuition. Don't reply to the invitation, don't send or spend the money, and don't share your name and personal information. Instead of 36 gifts, you're more likely to receive one great big headache and a basketful of regret. 

Added December 16, 2016


IRS "CP2000" Letter Claims You Owe Affordable Care Act Tax 

The Council on Aging passes along an AARP Fraud Watch warning. Instead of a call from the IRS asking for money (which the IRS doesn't do), victims receive an official-looking letter or email message claiming they owe taxes related to the Affordable Care Act.  The notice is labeled CP2000.

"If the IRS sends you a legitimate letter, you will always be given a telephone number for you to call and resolve the issue. Also, authentic letters instruct you to make the payments payable to the US Department of the Treasury, NEVER to the IRS. A CP2000 letter issued by the IRS is when income or payment information does not match what you submitted on the tax form; not the Affordable Care Act."

If you ever doubt something like this, you can reach the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. It's smart to ask questions. Don't be afraid to call.

Added December 8, 2016


Georgia Prisoners Running Phone Scams from Prison

Somehow, at least one Georgia  prisoner is managing to con people out of money from behind bars.  It's not a new scam, with the caller claiming you have a warrant out for your arrest because you've missed a summons or jury duty. You're told the police are looking to arrest you unless you pay a fine. Predictably, the caller asks for green dot money cards.

Nashville's News Channel 5 reminds everyone again, "Police say they will never call and ask for money or personal information. And if you get a call from someone claiming to work in law enforcement asking for either, simply hang up." Read the full News Channel 5 report. And remember, a stranger asking for payment by money card should put you on guard. 

Added December 8, 2016


"Fake Love Scam" Drains 92-Year-Old Man's Savings

CBS News tells the story of older adults marrying younger partners, partners who then proceed to take the older adult for everything they have. Because older adults marrying late in life may be struggling with the effects of a disease like dementia, their ability to put the brakes on spending or changes to inheritance can be compromised. Families can be powerless to stop it. 

The scammers, in many cases, are targeting people with an illness. They take advantage of a person, often a lonely one, they sense can no longer make personal and financial decisions in their own best interest. 

Added December 5, 2016


Home Rental, Home Lease Scams (Craigslist)

Nashville News Channel 5 warns of a scam that has recently been used twice in Murfreesboro. This is not a new scam, though, and it can (and does) happen in other places. 

Here are the basics: A home is listed, often on Craigslist, for rent or lease. A person needing a place contacts the "owner" or "agent" in the ad, meets them, pays a deposit, and receives keys and possibly a lease agreement. The problem is, the owner/agent is a fraud. The place isn't theirs to lease or rent. It may just be an empty home for sale, as in this report.

This is a tough one, because honest people do list rentals in newspapers and on sites like Craigslist. Not everyone uses a service or rental agency. But for renters, the safest way to choose a home is through a legitimate agency, someplace with an office and staff. At the very least, search online for the address of the place you're looking to rent or lease; it may show up for sale, in which case you might want to investigate further before making a payment or providing your personal information. 

Added November 10, 2016


Cookeville, Tennessee Attorney's Identity Stolen, Used to Scam Women Online

Nashville News Channel 5 passes along a story of Cookeville attorney Brett Knight. Mr. Knight regularly posted stories and personal photos online—still does. But an identity thief used that information and those photos to pretend to be Knight online. The thief became online friends with women, worked to gain their trust, and then began asking them for money for various invented reasons.  Again, it was not Knight.

Remember, anything personal you share online can be used against you or to impersonate you, including photos, your full name, your workplace, and your contact information. Before you share anything publicly, always ask yourself if an identity thief or other criminal could use what you share to harm you or someone else. Don't make it easy for them. And if you're someone who likes to meet people online, remember that it's hard to be sure that the person on the other end is being truthful. Protect yourself, ask questions, and be careful what you share about yourself. Requests for money or favors from new online friends should raise a red flag. 

Added November 10, 2016


Metro Nashville Police Investigating Thefts/Suspects Targeting Senior Citizens

Nashville's WKRN.com reports that Metro detectives "are on the lookout for multiple suspects in a series of thefts targeting senior citizens around Davidson County." This con is a familiar one, with the suspects tricking or intimidating seniors into paying for work—often roof work—that was never done.

It is safest to never even talk business with strangers going door to door offering home repair services. Even if they are honest, they may not have the background, required licenses, or insurance for the work they are offering to do. If something sounds too good to be true, or if someone is too aggressive, shut them out and consider calling the police. DO NOT let them in your home or provide your name or contact information.

Added November 10, 2016


Call Center Scam, Arrest and Deportation Threatened

CBS News reports: "Callers posing as tax and immigration agents are threatening arrest, deportation or other punishment unless money is sent to help clear up what they say is a deportation warrant or to cover unpaid income taxes." It was a scam targeting elderly and minorities. And, of course, it relied on prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, both of which are red flags whenever anyone is threatening you with arrest and jail time. Read the full story for more details, including how to file a report if you've been a victim of a scam like this one.

Added November 10, 2016


STOP Putting Checks/Payments in Your Mailbox

Nashville WSMV Channel 4 warns about the theft of mail from residential mailboxes. Any checks stolen then put the victim at extreme risk. One Nashville business had $20,000 worth of fraudulent checks posted to their account in a three-day period. Metro Police Fraud Sgt. Michael Warren was quoted by WSMV explaining, "Would you hand all of your personal information to a stranger: your name, your address, your phone number, your checking account number, your bank's routing number, and your driver's license number every time you issue a check to a vendor? That's what you're disclosing and you're just hoping it doesn't fall in the wrong hands."

A TCAD staff member actually witnessed the mail theft from their own box early one Saturday morning in 2016. It took no more than 4 seconds, after which the thief immediately drove to the neighboring box and repeated the theft. Even with a quick call to police, the thief was in an unremarkable and unmarked white pickup truck and had left the neighborhood before police could even arrive; he was never caught. 

Another point to consider is whether or not to raise the flag on your mailbox when you add mail. Yes, the flag signals your postal carrier to check the box, but it also signals to thieves that there is something inside the box for them to take.

It's best now to carry sensitive mail directly to the post office. At the very least, wait to add it to your box until you know your carrier is near. Never leave mail in your box overnight with the flag up.

Added October 10, 2016


Global Scheme Defrauded Millions with Phony Promises of Cash Prizes

CBS News, along with other news outlets, is reporting legal action taken against participants in a prize scam lasting years. It's a sad story, particularly in the case of older victims who sometimes lose their retirement security to scams like these. Younger victims have time to rebuild lost wealth, but older adults often don't.

Remember, legitimate prizes don't require you to send money first. You may have to pay taxes on a prize after you receive it, but that payment is made to the government. If someone tells you you've won something but must pay first to receive it, walk away.

Added September 23, 2016


Catoosa County , Georgia Driveway Paving Scam (Sheriff Looking for Couple) 

Chattanooga's WRCB Channel 3 shares a story out of Georgia. A 78-year-old woman let at least two scam artists into her life when she  agreed to a driveway paving job that was to cost $300; she was billed for $2,250. The job was never even finished.

This is not a new scam, and the victim even admits that she was aware of this one. She didn't think it would happen to her. 

You are your own first line of defense. You should never hire a stranger to work on your home, not without references from people or businesses you know and trust. You don't have to open your door to strangers just because they knock. It's okay to shut the door on someone if they are selling something you don't want and they won't stop talking. If you don't invite someone to your home, they are trespassing, even if they have something to sell; if you tell them to leave, they must leave. You are not being rude, they are.

When you do hire someone to do work on your home, always get a written estimate. If the bill is more than you agreed to pay, don't pay and get help instead.

If you are ever suspicious of a scam, call the police. There is no shame in being a victim or reporting a crime. By reporting, you're helping to prevent the same thing from happening to other people. 

Added September 1, 2016


Scammers Duplicate Facebook Profiles

Yet another reason to question what you share online: Scammers are using your photos and information to create false Facebook accounts based on your friends or family members. They then pretend to be one of those people, contact you, communicate with you for a few days, and learn even more about you or begin to work money into the conversation.

A TCAD staff member has twice been the target of Facebook impersonation, so this isn't just a news story created to entertain. This is happening to real people and could happen to you.

Learn more.

Added August 31, 2016


ATM Skimmer Scams

Nashville News Channel 5 shares another warning, this time offering tips to avoid compromised ATMs and public card payment devices. One common option for secure payment not mentioned in the story is the choice to use a credit card for payments instead of your bank card. You would want to check with your credit card company, but many cards offer protection against fraudulent purchases. You might only be responsible for a very small amount, if any, of a fraudulent charge to your credit card (assuming you report it quickly). But if your bank card is compromised, you may never recover the money stolen from your bank account.

If you do choose to use a credit card, be sure to budget your purchases and repay your balance monthly to avoid interest charges.

Added August 12, 2016


Nashvillians Targeted by  IRS Scam. Again

Nashville WSMV Channel 4 reminds us that this one isn't going away. When someone comes calling for money and claims to be the IRS, here are the things this report warns you to remember:

  • If you are asked to pay with a gift card, Green Dot card or iTunes card, hang up.
  • If they have a foreign account, that can be a clue. 
  • The IRS will always contact you by mail first. They will never ask you to pay over the phone or with a credit card.
  • With the real IRS, you will always have the right to appeal.

When you're talking about large sums of money, ask questions. Don't act too quickly. Don't be impulsive. Warn your friends and family.

Added August 11, 2016


Scam Artist Poses as Murfreesboro Firefighter

Nashville News Channel 5 reports that a man impersonated a firefighter, walked into a Murfreesboro, Tennessee business and claimed they owed an annual subscription fee of $100. No money, no emergency service. The only problem is that such fees are rare, and the City of Murfreesboro does not charge them. 

Before you hand over money for a service, do your research, make some calls. Talk to your neighbors, ask them if they've ever had to pay such a fee. It's not rude to ask questions.

Added August 11, 2016


Buyer Beware: The BBB Warns Consumers About Home Warranties

This story is not one of fraud but instead one of education and smart spending. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) wants you to know what you can and cannot do without, hopefully saving you money.

Homes sometimes come with warranties, or the chance to buy a warranty when the home is purchased. In this story from Nashville's News Channel 5, the BBB's advice is that these warranties are products that most people don't need. The coverage can be limited, and the fine print can be difficult to understand. A warranty company may also disagree with a customer over what is and isn't covered, as well as what a reasonable response time to a problem should be. 

Ultimately, the warning is that you may pay premiums for years, yet still not get the help you need when you finally need and expect it. Your payments have been wasted. Instead of paying for a warranty, the BBB recommends you open a savings account and deposit the money you would have spent on the warranty. That way the money is yours to spend on any repair, whenever you need it. 

Added August 4, 2016


Government Grant Scam Picks Up Across Mid-South

Memphis WREG News Channel 3 passes along details about an old scam with new life. And this one isn't just coming to people over the phone, but through links in email messages and on Facebook. The claim is for so-called "free money," a government grant. The scammers try to convince you that the only thing standing between you and that grant money is a payment to cover taxes and fees. They're lying, but people are falling for it.

As always, the best response to a stranger offering something that sounds too good to be true is to hang up the phone or walk away.

Added July 13, 2016


Chattanooga Police Reminder: Beware of Grandparent and IRS Scams

WRCBtv shares a warning from Chattanooga, Tennessee police about two "classic" scams about which we've posted before. Refresh yourself on the warning signs or, if these are new to you, learn how to protect yourself. These scams are with us as long as grandparents love their grandchildren and the IRS collects taxes, so everyone needs to know something about them. Regardless of who is issuing the warning, these scams can be run anytime, anywhere. 

Added July 13, 2016


Public Warned of Phone Scam in Coffee County

We've shared reports of this scam before in other areas. Because it takes place over the phone, and because phone numbers can be spoofed (faked), it can happen anywhere. In this case, Coffee County, Tennessee residents have become recent targets.

Nashville NewsChannel 5 reports that, "People have been calling residents and posing as either the deputy or circuit court clerks saying they owe money for missing a jury call or for outstanding fines." The fines range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The number showing up on caller ID is a legitimate county number.

Fortunately, it's easy to protect yourself from scams like these: hang up. Don't talk to the caller, just end the call. If you're worried you do owe money, contact your local government or law enforcement agencies yourself, on your terms. Tell them why you're contacting them, they'll help you get to the truth.  

Added June 30, 2016


How to Protect Your Parents from Elder Financial Abuse

NBC News offers a checklist of signs and strategies for keeping your parents safe from financial exploitation in their senior years. 

Added June 30, 2016


Gallatin Warns Neighbors About Door-To-Door Salespeople 

Nashville's WKRN News 2 passes along some good cautionary advice about door-to-door salespeople from the City of Gallatin. Remember:

  • Do your research before hiring anyone to work on your home.
  • Get references from people you know or sources you trust.
  • Just because someone knocks on your door doesn't mean you have to open it.
  • It's not rude to close a door if you tell someone to leave and they won't.

Added June 7, 2016


Phone Scam Uses Medicare to Try and Dupe Seniors

Memphis Station WMC warns of Medicare-related telephone scams. The best defense? Screen your calls, and don't answer calls from numbers you don't recognize. "When you answer these calls—even if you don't fall for the scam—you confirm to the caller that your number is a legitimate number. They will sell your number on mass marketing lists to other scammers, spammers, and telemarketers." Learn more to protect yourself.

Added May 31, 2016


Beware of This Number: 206-823-3351

A site visitor contacted the agency to report that she had received an IRS scam call from 206-823-3351. The Putnam County News reports that at least 6 inquiries about the same number have been made to the Putnam County Sheriff. 

REMEMBER: The IRS will not approach you by phone, not unless you've already made arrangements with the IRS to contact you that way. This phone number, 206-823-3351, will most likely be abandoned by the scammer once word gets around. Since phone numbers are recycled, the number may even be assigned to a legitimate caller in the future. The most important thing to remember is that anyone calling from any number and threatening you in the name of the IRS is not to be trusted. If you receive a call like that, hang up. The longer you talk to a scammer, the greater the risk you will accidentally tell them something about yourself.

If you're in Tennessee and want to verify you owe no money to the IRS, use one of the numbers below. That way you can be confident you're speaking with a real IRS representative. 

  • Chattanooga  423-855-6460
  • Jackson             731-423-2441
  • Johnson City   423-610-7050
  • Knoxville          865-545-4794
  • Memphis          901-544-3243
  • Nashville          615-250-5656

Added May 26, 2016


Online Scammers Prey on People Desperate to Find Affordable Housing

Nashville's WKRN News 2 warns, "Online scammers are posting homes for rent and sale that are actually not theirs to rent or sell." People unaware of the scam are putting down deposits only to find that they have no legitimate place to live. Learn more.

Added May 26, 2016


Crooks Pretending to Work for IRS Target Mid-Southerners

As of this post, a total of more than 5000 people have been scammed out of a combined $26 million in less than 3 years! This is one everyone should read. And once you've read the story, warn your family, friends, and coworkers not to fall for this.

The IRS will not reach out to you by phone, not for a first-time contact. The IRS will not threaten you with an arrest warrant. As the report states, the IRS doesn't want to imprison you; it wants you free and working so that you can pay your bill.

Added May 17, 2016


"Pink Bag" Charity Raises Legitimacy Questions

Nashville's News Channel 5 passes along a Better Business Bureau warning about Hope for Domestic Violence pink bags. According to the report, "Hope for Domestic Violence and their pink bags have been around for years, and during that time, there has been plenty of controversy surrounding where the donations go, and where money made by the charity is allocated."

Kathleen Calligan, President and CEO of BBB Middle Tennessee is quoted in the article as cautioning that, "The reality is, you're not probably helping the needy, you'll be helping the greedy." 

The best rule of thumb is always to do some research before donating to any organization. Remember, the Cancer Fund of America out of Knoxville, Tennessee was just one of four so-called charities revealed in 2015 to have been anything but charitable in their work. They took more than $180 million over time and spent it on trips and cruises, among other things. There is no relationship with Hope for Domestic Violence. The point is, who would have suspected that of four different cancer charities, one of them in our own backyard?

Just because someone asks for a donation, don't feel that you have to give without asking questions. It's not impolite. It's another way you're choosing to do good, both for yourself and others. Make sure your money or donation will honestly go to those who need it.

Added April 29, 2016


Better Business Bureau (BBB) Warns of Springtime Driveway Paving Scams

Nashville's News 2 WKRN shares a BBB warning out of Rutherford County: a paving company is going door to door, offering shoddy driveway paving at one price, then raising the price once the work is done. The scam could cost you thousands. And this can, and does, happen everywhere, not just Rutherford County.

Never do business with strangers going door to door, especially when the offer sounds too good to be true or involves more than a few dollars. You may not only lose money to the scammer, there's a chance you'll have to pay someone else to redo or repair the poor work done as part of the scam. And be careful how much information you share about yourself and your home with door-to-door salespeople. The BBB's website offers more on this story, a list of red flag behavior, the names of a few questionable businesses, and a list of reputable and rated companies. 

Do your homework, protect yourself!

Added April 15, 2016


How Criminals Could Steal Your Tax Return

NBC News reports on the tactics scammers use to tease out your personal information from employers.

Added April 8, 2016


Warning Issued After Wave of Government Impersonation Scams

Nashville's WKRN News 2 shares a collection of warnings about impersonators pretending to be FBI and IRS agents, among others.  Even caller ID numbers can be faked. According to the report, "[S]cammers are now more sophisticated, using official-sounding call centers and citing designated court hearing times. The U.S. Marshals Service has also received complaints of specific officer names or badge numbers being cited by scammers."

Added April 4, 2016


Lost Pet Scams

This warning from the Better Business Bureau is a few years old, but it's still valid. Learn how to avoid sharing too much information when posting notices about a lost pet, and learn what not to fall for if scammers try to convince you that they've found your missing pet.

Added March 23, 2016


Can You ID This Man? Rutherford County Law Enforcement Searching for Scammer

Rutherford County authorities are looking for a man accused of conning an older woman into writing a $1,200 check. Read the full story on WKRN.com, which includes contact information should you recognize the man. 

Added February 25, 2016


IRS Hacked Again

From Fortune online

"Identity thieves attempted to breach computer systems at the Internal Revenue Service to file fraudulent tax refunds."

"The criminals were especially after E-file PINs, which are used by some individuals to electronically file a return, the agency said in a statement released Tuesday. Around 464,000 unique social security numbers were involved, and of that total, 101,000 SSNs were used to successfully access an E-file PIN."

Added February 12, 2016


Seniors Tricked Into Carrying Drugs

ABC news reports that the government is now officially recognizing and investigating a threat to traveling older adults: Scammers are tricking them into carrying illegal drugs.

"The seemingly harmless items have included chocolates, picture frames, tea, markers, canned goods, shampoo bottles, soap and wooden hangers that actually conceal drugs, which can result in arrest and detention by authorities." One victim relates that the drugs were in the lining of a suitcase he was given.

Read the full report and remember, the safest strategy is to never transport a package you haven't packed yourself.

Added February 12, 2016


Don't Become a Victim Twice!

If you've been scammed once, have already lost money to a con, you may be on a list of "easy targets." The people running these scams hope that if they fooled you once, they can fool you again.

In this case, the scammers (posing as "Asset Recovery Companies") contacting you pretend to be in a position to help you recover what you lost to the first scam. They offer to help you get back some, or all, of your money. One sure sign that this is a con: They ask you for money up front. That's right, you just lost money, and now someone else is calling and asking you for more money in order to help get your money back. 

Read the full advisory from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Added February 10, 2016


Tax Scam Variation: You're Due a Refund

AARP warns that IRS imposters may not just call claiming you owe the IRS money. Con artists may call with the claim that "you have a refund waiting but need to verify personal info before sending." AARP reminds us: "Do not return a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. The real IRS opens communications with a taxpayer only via the U.S. Postal Service. If you're ever in doubt about an IRS matter, call the agency directly at 800-829-1040." 

Learn more about this scam, as well as others, from an AARP list of 10 for January/February 2016.

Added February 8, 2016


It's Tax Season for Scammers, Too!

Scam artists know you're thinking about taxes at this time of year. They're thinking about calling you up and pretending to work for the IRS. The IRS will not call you without first sending you a bill, but the IRS does now use private debt collectors, and those collectors may call you. So what are you supposed to do? How do you protect yourself?

If you know you owe the IRS, if you think you owe the IRS, or if you're worried you might have some other problem with the IRS, then contact the IRS yourself. Don't wait for a call, make the call yourself. That way you know the conversation is legitimate. 

In Tennessee, there are IRS offices in Chattanooga, Jackson, Johnson City, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville. Detailed contact information for each of these locations is available on the IRS's website. The following numbers are also options:

Telephone Assistance for Individuals:
Toll-Free, 800-829-1040 
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

Telephone Assistance for Businesses:
Toll-Free, 800-829-4933
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

Telephone Assistance for Exempt Organizations, Retirement Plan Administrators, and Government Entities:
Toll-Free, 877-829-5500
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday,  8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Local Time. 

Telephone Assistance for people with hearing impairments:
Toll-Free 800-829-4059 (TDD)
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

Telephone Assistance for Individuals who believe they may be a victim of Identity Theft:
*No Tax Administration Impact - Did not receive a notice from the IRS.
Toll-Free 800-908-4490 (Automated and live assistance)
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

Things to Know: Tips from AARP's Fraud Watch Network

The following points, taken directly from a January 2016 Fraud Watch message, are what AARP wants you to know if contacted about delinquent taxes by an IRS private collector.
 
•    Private collectors for the IRS cannot accept direct payments -- all payments should be made to the U.S. Treasury. The agency will not require specific types of payments such as wire transfers or prepaid debit cards. Scammers prefer these methods because they are hard to trace and can be redeemed anywhere in the world. 
 
•    Unless the IRS has an incorrect address, both the agency and its private collectors should first make contact by mailed letter. In a recent interview, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the Washington Post: “If you are surprised to be hearing from us, you’re probably not hearing from us because you won’t hear from us first by phone.” 
 
•    Those who owe tax debt but cannot pay in full will be offered an installment plan for up to five years. If five years isn’t enough, “the collector asks for taxpayer financial information to see what sort of deal the taxpayer should get,” explains Robert W. Wood, who covers taxes and litigation for Forbes. 
 
•    The same rules on other collectors apply: No calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. You must be sent a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after first contact. No harassing, abusive or threatening language allowed. 
 
•    Certain tax bills (and therefore phone calls) cannot be handled by private collectors for the IRS: those for taxpayers who are deceased, under age 18, in a designated combat zone, or a victim of identity theft. Debtors currently in audit, litigation or criminal investigation are also off-limits to third-party hired guns.

Added January 27, 2016


7 Ways to Stop Debt Collection Scammers

Military.com shares a detailed article that both warns you about telephone debt collection scams and provides a variety of suggestions for responding. Of course, the best response is usually to just hang up. The longer you talk to phone scammers, the greater the risk you will accidentally share information with them that they can use to victimize you.

If you're worried you may have outstanding debt, you don't have to talk to a stranger about it over the phone—not a stranger who calls you out of the blue. Order a copy of your free annual credit report. By law, you are allowed three a year, one each from three different reporting companies. You can request all three at once, or you can request just one every 3-4 months to monitor your credit throughout the year.

Reminder: We look to provide links to stories and articles with information that may help you avoid becoming a scam victim. We do this purely to help you educate yourself. In some cases, the sites to which we link feature advertising and services for sale. TCAD does not endorse any product or service offered through these sites. Use caution when following links on sites with which you aren't familiar.

Added January 27, 2016


Be Careful When Choosing a Contractor For Home Repair, Modifications, and Renovations

As the year began, Nashville's WSMV reported on thousands of dollars worth of substandard work done for an elderly couple by an apparently unlicensed contractor. It's a story we've all seen at one time or another across the state at this point. Are you planning to renovate or modify your home as you, or as loved ones, age? Be careful. Do your research. Check references.

Even something as seemingly simple as a ramp requires know-how to be made safe and long-lasting. Make sure that any contractor you hire is licensed by the State, and don't just take their word for it. Even companies that claim to be able to report on in-state businesses may not get it right. 

Anyone can check a Tennessee business license through the Department of Commerce and Insurance on the state website. 

Added January 8, 2016


Phone Scam: Clarksville Police Warn of Man Posing as Montgomery Co. Deputy

Nashville WKRN News 2 reports that, "Clarksville police are warning residents of a scheme involving a man claiming to be a Montgomery County Deputy." The man further claims there are warrants requiring a cash payment. Don't be fooled, it's a scare tactic. As always, true law enforcement doesn't work this way. A deputy would never call anyone and ask for payment, for money.

If you ever receive a call like this, regardless of where you live, your best response is to hang up and call local law enforcement.

Added January 7, 2016