BBB warns of government shutdown scams

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With many government agencies either shutdown or short staffed due to the budget crisis in Washington, the Better Business Bureau has seen an uptick in fraud from government impostors.

BBB Serving Northeast Florida and the Southeast Atlantic is warning people about three specific scams.

The first is a warning from a local tax attorney. The scam: an individual receives a call from someone claiming to work for the IRS. They are told that if they do not send a certain amount of money, let's say $1,000 by the end of the day, they will have someone arrest them. The individual is instructed to go to Walmart and get a green dot card and send money. They are told not to tell the person at Walmart the funds are for the IRS, because that would trigger a higher transaction fee.

How are they getting the info: it appears the scammers are using tax lien information. Cross referencing that with the local phone book, and then taking a shot gun approach, calling whoever they can to see if they can find someone to prey upon. The scammers are taking advantage of the fact that the IRS is currently shutdown, so consumers cannot verify the legitimacy of the calls and feel threatened.

One week into the new health care marketplace, BBB is warning consumers about scams tied to the Affordable Care Act. BBB recommends that consumers stay vigilant, and beware of unsolicited emails or phone calls from individuals purporting to be government representatives. With all of the confusion surrounding the Affordable care act BBB wants consumers to remember, the government is not emailing, calling, or knocking on doors. If you are interested in signing up, go directly to the site set up by the government You have until March of 2014 to sign up, so take your time to understand the ins and outs before putting your information out there.

Finally, we warn consumers about collection scams all the time, but with the government shutdown BBB is seeing a rise in calls from consumers that have been contacted by phony collection agencies. With no one to regulate the industry at the moment, scammers are taking advantage of the situation. BBB wants consumers to know, legitimate collection agencies should not threaten to arrest you, or require you to wire funds immediately to settle a debt. If you are unsure if the debt is legitimate, request that the collector send you a verification letter. If the collector refuses, this is a red flag.

As always, be wary of any high pressure tactics used by any agency. Wanting you to make a decision immediately about anything is a warning sign that something may be fishy. If you have any questions, contact BBB and we can help you determine the validity of the phone calls or emails you receive.

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