Twice a Month Tips You Can Trust for the Week December 13, 2010

  
     
January 03, 2011

BBB TWICE A MONTH TIPS YOU CAN TRUST
Compiled by Zan Deery, Communications/Investigations

For the Week of 12/13/10

zan@spokane.bbb.org

800-356-1007 or 509-455-4200
www.bbb.org

Readers of these tips should take into consideration the importance of the practice in question and the total performance of a company.

For complete information and BBB reports, please visit www.bbb.org

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@BBB_ITSY_TIPS

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The BBB of Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana

TIP NUMBER ONE

HOLIDAY TIP FROM BBB AND CARU:
Check Privacy Policy on "Dear Santa" Web Sites

Before allowing children to share personal information with a “Letter to Santa” website, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) recommends that adults carefully review the site.

FULL RELEASE HERE
http://www.caru.org/news/2010/CARUDearSantaPR.pdf

HOLIDAY SPEAK FOR BUSINESSES:
Great Web Site Tips from MT-based Modwest

Hackers love the holidays: How to keep your site secure

The holidays are tempting times for thieves to hack into unsecured sites, especially e-commerce sites that store customer credit cards. Knowing the term 'perfect software' is an oxymoron, hackers probe websites for vulnerabilities in order to find an unintentional back door into the web application or shopping cart being used. Luckily, these vulnerabilities are usually discovered quickly and reported to the software vendor/developer who produced the package, and a security update or patch is released relatively quickly. The trick is that you, the site owner, need to be made aware of the update's availability and apply it to the software. Here's a few links associated with some of the most popular shopping carts and web applications out there, that will help you stay informed.

If your site does become compromised by a hacker, see Geekchick's article on how to recover from a website hack.

FULL ARTICLE HERE:  http://newsletter.modwest.com/20101209/

Businesses Beware: Amazon Fake Receipts Scam Asks Sellers for Refunds
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/09/unemployed-man-wages-pers_n_794572.html?ir=Impact

TIP NUMBER TWO

SWEEPSTAKES SCAMS TARGETING YAKIMA AREA ELDERLY

The Olympian recently reported that Yakima officials/law enforcement has sweepstakes scam calls on their radar, and that people are falling for them.

SWEEPSTAKES SCAM CALL REPORT
Yakima police are warning of a fraud scheme in which the criminals pose as FBI agents and police officers. Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2010/12/07/1466059/police-say-scam-artists-pose-as.html#storylink=mirelated#ixzz186V3GP2w

GAMES OF CHANCE
BBB recently received a call from a Yakima gentleman who is alarmed by a mailing he received from a NY-based company called Awards Payments Direct that stated he won a large sum of money but he needed to send them $19 to process it. He relays that the mailing is so incredibly well done and professional looking, he worried about other people falling for it.

The company is:
Award Payment, Data Release Division, PO Box 9035, Jericho, NY 11753

Also with an Issuance office located in:
Issuances Office, Proceedings Director, PO Box 9000, East Meadows, NY 11554-9000

Here is the BBB Business Review for this company:
http://www.bbb.org/new-york-city/business-reviews/sweepstakes/the-reporting-center-in-jericho-ny-91395/

BBB ADVICE

July 2010 Warning from Boise BBB (activity in Southern ID)
http://spokane.bbb.org/article/jamaican-sweepstakes-scam-strikes-again-bbb-name-being-misused-in-sweepstake-calls-reports-boise-bbb-20772

May 2010 Warning about Spokane Valley Woman
http://www.kxly.com/news/23491879/detail.html

March 2010 Warning about Scam Targeting Montana
http://spokane.bbb.org/article/two-tier-warning-for-mt-sweepstake-scam-calls-and-toner-phoners-9635

February 2010 Warning (Tip #4)
http://spokane.bbb.org/article/bbb-weekly-tips-you-can-trust-for-the-week-february-8-2010-15153

If you are a victim of this scam, we urge you to do the following: 1) do NOT speak with the scammers again. Tell them you have contacted the authorities and are onto their game, and you won’t talk with them anymore. Do not give into threats or further harassment. Stand firm, 2) contact your financial institutions and/or credit card merchants and/or bank to report the compromise of info ASAP, 3) file a police report if you have compromised sensitive info and feel you may be a potential ID theft victim.

AND YET, ANOTHER SWEEPSTAKES WARNING...

SWEEPSTAKES SCAM WITH DECEPTIVE WEB SITE:
CONSUMER PROTECTION BUREAU

SCAM
A fraudulent offer referencing a so-called “Consumer Protection Bureau”  www.cpbus.org was brought to BBB’s attention. The domain was registered on Nov. 6, 2010. The contact information on the site shows:   Call us today at 800-519-5243, 703-459-9208, 4201 Wilson Blvd, Arlington VA 22203

SCENARIO
My elderly parents received a phone call this morning from a gentleman who calls himself Spencer Cohen. He claimed he was from the Consumer Protection Bureau and wanted to let my folks know that they had won $595,000. They would receive $525,000 after taxes. But because it was such a large amount of winnings, they needed 1% from my parents to secure the payment. My mother said she could not agree to anything until she spoke to me. Mr. Cohen gave her this web site for me to check out www.cpbus.org and this phone number 703-459-9212. My father, who supposedly filled out the entry form in October, couldn't even tell you his right name. He is mentally ill.

BBB ADVICE
We congratulate the sender for being a savvy consumer, and a compassionate adult child to her parents, who need her guidance. She contacted FBI’s Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov about this incident.

Online? EN GUARD!
Various Online Warnings Follow

Online Shopping Requires Vigilance from U.S. Chamber Magazine
www.uschambermagazine.com

“On November 29, federal officials announced the seizure of 82 websites dedicated to selling counterfeit goods and/or pirating copyrighted materials. By cracking down on these illegal operations, law enforcement is leading the fight against the online theft of intellectual property (IP), which harms consumers and costs American jobs. Many of the sites that were shut down offered products aimed at holiday shoppers—including luxury goods, jewelry, and DVDs. The counterfeit products sold on these websites don’t have to comply with government or industry standards, are frequently of poor quality, and can pose serious health or safety risks to unwary consumers.”

FULL STORY HERE
http://www.uschambermagazine.com/article/online-shopping-requires-vigilance?n=w

Twitter Accounts Hacked: Were you Affected?

Many twitter users are reporting their accounts to be tweeting the words "Acai Berries" without their consent.

Many twitter users are reporting their accounts have been tweeting the words "Acai Berries" without their consent, according to The Next Web. At first this was thought to be a worm spreading through Twitter but it was later found to be related to the Gawker Media hacking this past weekend.

Gawker Media's database, Delbius, is the leader of Twitter's Trust and Safety team. If you have a Gawker account that shares similar information with your twitter account, such as the same password, you should change it immediately to prevent being hacked into. Twitter has tweeted from its support and spam accounts about warnings and more information on the subject.

Read more: http://thenextweb.com/twitter/2010/12/13/twitter-acai-berry-worm-linked-to-gawker-hack/

TIP NUMBER THREE

MAKE CERTAIN YOUR HEATING REPAIR CONTRACTOR IS PROPERLY LICENSED AND INSURED

Suspended and/or Expired Contractors are on BBB’s Radar, Performing Substandard Work

With subfreezing temperatures coming and going, many furnaces are being taxed or are in need of winterization or repair. BBB says it’s important to look for the right company to help fix the problem.
Your regional BBB recently issued this warning about a Spokane-area heating contractor, River City Heating and Cooling, which is operating with a suspended and expired license and bond: http://spokane.bbb.org/article/river-city-heating-and-cooling-of-spokane-wa-performing-substandard-work-with-expired-license-23909

After this release, BBB heard from yet another consumer who hired a suspended WA State contractor, M & S Plumbing & Rooter of Spokane, WA, to do work for him. The consumer didn’t want to file a complaint because he felt intimidated by his contractor.

Is THIS the way to hire and work with a company you allow into your house to work on something as important as your heating system? NO------There are much better ways, and it pays to do research before hiring a contractor, because the “cheap deal” you may get from an unlicensed contractor could cost you hundreds, if not thousands in the long run, due to the poor workmanship such hiring can cause!

BBB ADVICE

*When looking for a good company, it’s best to start with word of mouth. Maybe choose to work with a trusted BBB Accredited Business. Look for one in your region at: http://www.bbb.org/eastern-washington/accredited-business-directory/

*Make sure your contractor is properly licensed, insured and/or bonded to do the job right in the state in which they are performing the work. Also check on their current registration in the state they come from if they are from out of the area.

*Next, customers should research that company to see if any complaints have been filed with regulators and BBB. Also check subjective blog sites online to see what people are saying about the potential company.

*Comparison shop and look into pricing. There’s no price range when it comes to fixing your furnace because it depends on what needs to be done. Gain estimates first from at least two to three companies.

*Make certain your contractor is using a contract. Get one from them detailing the problems and the work that needs to be done. The more detailed the contract is, the better protection for customers when a complaint arises.

“FREE” ADVERTISING ALERT

When a retailer advertises something is “free”, is it really free?

“Nothing is free if you must spend money to receive it,” says Laura Impellizzeri of The Associated Press. “Most people realize, if they stop to think about it, that the retailer will shift the cost somehow. But most people don’t stop to think.”

Her story hints at the harsh reality of sales practices used by retailers who are desperate to survive and consumers’ willingness to take it. Thank you Laura, for saying what many of us have been thinking all along. The BBB reviews local advertising and challenges ads that may be misleading. “Free” offers are among the most-challenged claims.

This isn’t to say that all “free” offers are bogus. However, the rapid rate of price fluctuation and the use of rarely-charged reference prices have given retailers a strong advantage over the deal-seeking consumer. The BBB advises consumers to make sure to understand all the terms and conditions of “free” offers. “You can know a deal is good only if you know what items normally cost,” Ms. Impellizzeri says.

For retailers interested in best practices, the BBB provides guidance on the use of the word “free” in the BBB Code of Advertising. (See Section 2)

If you’re aware of a questionable offer, feel free to contact your local BBB’s advertising review department.

RECENT EMAIL HOAX ON BBB’S RADAR:
MAFIA GROUP THREAT EMAIL RE-CIRCULATING
This Email is a Hoax

If you receive this email, know it is a hoax that is re-circulating, even though it will strike most as haunting and utterly threatening. If you feel your life is in danger, and that an email such as this may be associated with a larger threat to your safety, contact your local police department ASAP to report it. 

Original Email here:

-----Original Message-----
From: Mafia Group [mailto:mafiaa_group@hotmail.com]
Sent: None
To:
Subject: Some One Paid us to Kill you.

Hey!

As you can see there is no need for me to introducing myself to you because I don't have any business with you, my duty as I am mailing you now is just to (ASSASSINATE YOU) if you don't comply and I have to do it as I have already been paid for that. But I have to ask you this question what is the problem you have with your friend that made him to hire us to kill you?

Someone you call a Friend wants you Dead by all means, and the person also came to us and told us that he want you dead and he provided us with your name, picture and other necessary information's we needed about you. But I have sent my boy's to track you down with the information given to us and they have carried out the necessary investigation needed for the operation, but I ORDERED THEM TO WAIT not to kill you YET that I will like to contact you and see if your life is Important to you or not. Since we have find out that you are some how innocent not too sure as yet.

I called my client back and ask him of your email address which I didn't tell him what I wanted to do with it and he gave it to me and I am using it to contact you now. As I am writing to you now my men are monitoring you and they are telling me everything about you.

Now do you want to LIVE OR DIE? As someone has paid us to kill you. Get back to me now if you are ready to pay some fees to spare your life, $3,800 is all you need to spend. You will first of all pay $3000usd then I will send a tape to you which I recorded every discussion I had with the person who wanted you dead and as soon as you get the tape, you will pay the remaining $800. If you are not ready for my help, then I will carry on with my job straight-up.

WARNING: DO NOT THINK OF CONTACTING THE POLICE OR EVEN TELLING ANYONE BECAUSE I WILL KNOW. REMEMBER, SOMEONE WHO KNOWS YOU VERY WELL WANTS YOU DEAD! I WILL EXTEND IT TO YOUR FAMILY, IN-CASE I NOTICE SOMETHING FUNNY. DO NOT COME OUT ONCE IT IS 7:PM UNTIL I MAKE OUT TIME TO SEE YOU AND GIVE YOU THE TAPE OF MY DISCUSSION WITH THE PERSON WHO WANT YOU DEAD THEN YOU CAN USE IT TO TAKE ANY LEGAL ACTION. GOOD LUCK AS I AWAIT YOUR REPLY VERY URGENT THANKS.

FROM MAFIA GROUP.

WARNINGS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL AND THEIR FAMILIES

#1
BBB MILITARY LINE WARNS OF FINANCIAL THREATS AGAINST MILTARY PERSONNEL

KUDOS to Holly Petraeus for the great article on BBB Military Line in USAA’s Winter 2010 issue here:

https://www.usaa.com/inet/ent_utils/McStaticPages?key=usaamag_patraeus_protecting_military

#2
FAKE V.A. ATTORNEY EMAILS CIRCULATE

Someone pretending to be an attorney with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is sending an email to military veterans “warning” them against using the services of a group called Veterans Affairs Services. BBB Military Line, a complaint resource specialized for the military and their families, has received several inquiries about the email.

The email appears to come from, “Michael G. Daugherty, Staff Attorney with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of General Counsel (022G2)”. The email header, however, shows that it was sent by Jon Thompson with an email address: jkt6@comcast.net.

Full warning here:
http://spokane.bbb.org/article/be-wary-of-random-emails-to-military-personnel-with-subject-warning-to-all-veterans-24044

TIP NUMBER FOUR

ESTATE/INVESTMENT OFFER EDUCATIONAL TIP

PRAIRIE CAPITAL, INC.
155 WABASHA St. S. Suite 100
St. Paul, MN  55107
651-698-5665

An elderly woman in an assisted living facility in Spokane received a direct mail piece from the above-mentioned group telling her that she was heir to a certain estate. When the woman took this piece of mail to her financial advisor, the advisor told her that there was nothing truthful in the mailing and that no, she was not heir to this estate.

The letter is printed on plain paper, with no official company letterhead, and states the following:

It appears in the Hennepin County court records that you are an heir to the state of XXXX. If you need your money now, or part of it now, call to discuss how we may be able to set up an advance. Also, if there is real estate to be sold, there is also a possibility that we could advance against the sale of the property. Call us for a no obligation/no fee consultation…

BBB BUSINESS REVIEW
http://www.bbb.org/minnesota/business-reviews/investment-advisory-service/prairie-capital-in-saint-paul-mn-96157317

BBB ADVICE
If you have a financial advisor or an investment counselor, make certain that you put any and all offers that you are doubtful about by them for review and advice. Do not just believe the offer or pitch without doing research first. More advice from BBB here:
http://www.bbbmoneynow.org/?lid=1&page=avoidingscams

ATTN: LAW FIRMS
BEWARE OF FAKE REQUESTS FOR SERVICES

Sender says their ex-spouse lives near the law firm and wants to hire them for legal representation

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office says law firms may be the newest targets of scam artists who dupe people with counterfeit checks.

Attorney General Roy Cooper says law firms in Gastonia, N.C. and Oxford, N.C. recently reported receiving phony checks for $85,000 and $295,000 from scammers who asked them to wire the money to bank accounts in Asia. This appears to be a new spin on the old fake check scams. It begins with an email from someone who claims to be an American living overseas. The sender says their ex-spouse lives near the law firm and wants to hire them for legal representation. The scammer sends a check to cover the cost of representing them in court, but asks the firm to wire the remainder of the money back to them overseas.

Banks often don't realize a check is counterfeit until several days after you deposit it, after you've likely wired the money. When you wire money, it's like sending cash in an envelope. Once you wire it, the money is gone and cannot be traced.

FULL STORY HERE: http://www.witn.com/home/headlines/Law_Firms_Warned_Of_Fake_Check_Scams_111440649.html

auto-mall-inc.com Claims Amarillo, TX Location to Rip Off Consumers Nationwide

Consumers send thousands - receive nothing

The BBB has issued an F rating to a company claiming to be located in Amarillo, TX. The Internet based company is offering re-possessed vehicles at unusually low prices. BBB Amarillo has received six complaints from consumers across the country in the month of November.

The complainants state they have sent thousands of dollars to auto-mall-inc.com for the purchase of a vehicle but have not received the vehicle as promised. Consumers further allege they are not able to speak directly with the company.

BBB reports that auto-mall-inc.com has received over 1,240 inquiries in the past month. Typical inquires on an individual company range from 15-30 a month depending on the industry and the time of the year.

BBB investigations show that the phone number on the company’s website has a Houston area code. When called, a recording indicates that all operators are busy and the caller should get in touch with the company using online means only.

BBB NOTE: The F rating issued for auto-mall-inc.com applies to auto-mall-inc.com and not Auto Mall in Amarillo.

LATEST Advance Fee Loan Scam:
Pillar Stone Equity Group Falsely Uses Memphis Address

Memphis TN, December 1, 2010 – In this holiday season, when many consumers are looking for extra cash for gifts and other purchases, advance fee loan companies are preying on unwary consumers, taking their money for the promise of a loan or credit, and leaving them with nothing. The BBB of the Mid-South is warning consumers about an advance fee loan scam that is falsely using the address of some legitimate Memphis businesses. The scam company, Pillar Stone Equity Group, claims to be located in East Memphis. Bill Oates, owner of the property, says that is not true.

The company’s website contains no address or phone number, but the BBB has obtained copies of documents faxed to consumers that claim the company is located at 704 W Brookhaven Circle. Oates says there is no business by that name at that address.

FULL RELEASE HERE
http://memphis.bbb.org/article/advance-fee-loan-scam-falsely-uses-memphis-address-23968 

BBB ADVICE
Only use the IRS website, and never respond to email claiming that the IRS owes you money-it is a scam. The IRS does not initiate communication via email.

BBB Calls World Reserve Monetary Exchange Ads Offering Free $2 Bills Misleading

Consumers hoping to cash in on an advertised offer of “absolutely free” $2 bills may end up frustrated and disappointed, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.

The company behind the ad is World Reserve Monetary Exchange, Inc., of Canton, Ohio.  “St. Louis area zip codes turn up free cash for residents,” said the headline on the advertisement which ran last month in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Valuable uncut sheets of Missouri state $2 bills are actually being given away free.”

Here’s the catch: The only way to get the $8 in so-called free money is to buy 12 additional $2 bills at a cost of nearly $160. 

World Reserve Monetary Exchange and several affiliated businesses, including Universal Syndications, Inc., have advertised in newspapers and other publications nationwide, including Missouri and Illinois.  The company is a division of Arthur Middleton Capital Holdings of Ohio and Miami Beach, Fla., according to the holding company’s website.  The holding company also oversees companies that have sold controversial Heat Surge heaters, healthcare plans and “free” digital TV converter boxes. The TV converter box ads were labeled misleading and confusing by the Columbus, Ohio, BBB in 2008.

FULL STORY WITH TIPS HERE
http://spokane.bbb.org/article/bbb-calls-world-reserve-monetary-exchange-ads-offering-free-2-bills-misleading-23956

Fake Package Pickup Postcard (Again)

Once again, SUMMIT PACKAGE SERVICES, of Whitehouse, TX is sending a deceptive and misleading postcard throughout the USA. This “green” postcard says to “call to schedule pickup”. Full details are as follows:

Summit Package Services
PO Box 820
Whitehouse TX 75791
(877) 688-9108

Package Number: 1119-0670-0704 Track: 03158-04

This is another attempt by the same company with a slightly different name to sell you something. Sending a postcard in the holiday season to schedule a pickup certainly implies a holiday package was sent and not delivered. It preys on busy people familiar with notices being left in the mail re: actual holiday deliveries. Once again, the BBB warns all consumers to the extra careful with this deceptive offer under any name used.

LATEST Employment Scam Found in Newspapers across Several States Offers Work with Oil Drilling Firm

BBB received a call from a consumer who had replied to the ad listed below. When he spoke with the “company” they told him he had the job but needed to Western Union the company the price of his plane ticket to ensure he would show up for his “interview”. The customer contacted the BBB office and in checking online, it seems this ad is being run for different positions (travel agent, restaurant, etc.) in many different states, all with the same number. The customer was directed to use 310-967-7959 (registered as a landline in Beverly Hills, CA) as a point of contact once he sent the money over by Western Union.  Luckily, he checked and didn’t send the money.

It appears the ad is being run in San Francisco, CA, Columbus, OH, Baltimore, MD and Hunt Valley, MD. 

“Managers-for Negotiations and contracts department of large natural gas drilling corp. Manager will lead a large staff which will negotiate with land owners the mineral rights for our gas drilling.  Must have strong leadership and/or organizational skills.  Richmond Locations. Excellent Salary and Benefit Package.  Call 651-282-7411."

BBB ADVICE
Here are some great tips from Jane Driggs, UT BBB President, during an ABC 4 Salt Lake station segment:
http://www.abc4.com/content/about_4/gtu/featured_on/story/Avoid-at-home-job-scams/Hv3ERE-5zkW_oN8BwpjnUw.cspx

TIP NUMBER FIVE

BBB warns of callers claiming to be from Microsoft phoning to fix fake computer problem

A phone scam that has plagued the UK and Australia the past couple of years is now making an appearance here in B.C., and the scam artists are using a well-known name to attack vulnerable consumers. Callers claiming to be from Microsoft are attempting to bilk consumers out of dollars while at the same time giving them access to personal data.
Consumers who have contacted BBB to report their experience say that the scam always starts the same way: the phone rings at their home, and the caller asks for the householder, quoting their name and address before stating a variation of “I'm calling for Microsoft. We've had a report from your internet service provider of serious virus problems from your computer.”

The caller warns that if the problem is not solved, the computer will become unusable. The concerned owner is then directed to their computer and asked to open a program that shows a long list of errors. In order to “fix” it, the computer owner is directed to a website and told to download a program that hands over remote access to the computer. And then comes time to pay a fee for a subscription to this preventative service.

The catch: there was never anything wrong with the computer, the caller is not working for Microsoft, and the owner has given a complete stranger access to every piece of data on their computer.

BBB has confirmed with Microsoft that they do not make unsolicited phone calls to help fix personal computers and warns consumers about cybercriminals using their company’s name in their scams. According to Microsoft, once the crooks have gained your trust, they attempt to steal from you and damage your computer with malware including viruses and spyware.

BBB advises the public that these phony phone calls are common, and people should:

Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism. Check with the organization directly that the caller is claiming to be from, using the contact numbers found on their website.

Do not provide any personal information. Many of these scam calls are an attempt to steal your identity, not just your money. Don’t provide personal information over the telephone.

Never provide credit or debit card information for payment. You may be able to reverse charges made through your credit card, but you’ve given enough information for fraudsters to use your account for other transactions. And debit purchases are difficult to reverse.

Report any fraudulent activity, especially if you’ve been a victim. Consumers should report any fraudulent activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1 (888) 495-8501 or www.antifraudcentre.ca.

A great article about “Microsoft Calling” Computer Scam here: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/thousands-fleeced-in-microsoft-scam-but-police-powerless-to-act-20101209-18qgq.html

This scam actually came onto YOUR REGIONAL BBB’s radar this year about the time we issued this warning: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Z-on-AuCKRcJ:spokane.bbb.org/article/bbb-warns-of-phone-calls-claiming-to-fix-fake-computer-problem-24069+microsoft+calling,+spokane+bbb&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

AGENCY ORDERS, ACTIONS, TIPS AND ADVICE

WA Dept. of Labor and Industries:
Elevator inspectors work to keep holiday shoppers safe
http://www.lni.wa.gov/News/2010/pr101209a.asp

MONTANA DEPT. OF COMMERCE

American Community Survey (ACS) Data and 2010 Census State Population Figures Slated for December Release

(HELENA, MT) -This December, the U.S. Census Bureau will release a new product that compiles five years of data from the American Community Survey (ACS). In addition, the 2010 Census apportionment counts are scheduled to go to the President at month's end.

The ACS Five-Year Estimates are scheduled to be released December 14th. The state population counts from the 2010 Census are scheduled to be released by December 31st.

The ACS is focused on population characteristics and complements, but is different from, the 2010 Census data. ACS data are collected annually and released in multi-year estimates; while census data are collected every 10 years.

The ACS data are based on a sample survey of the nation and describe how we live by providing estimates of key social, economic and housing characteristics. The ACS data release will provide in-depth information on more than 40 topics, such as income, educational attainment, poverty, occupation, housing, and family structure for all geographies in the U.S., using data collected between 2005 and 2009. Because the ACS is a survey, the results are subject to sampling error.

The 2010 Census data release will provide complete count population totals compiled from the ten questions on the 2010 Census form. Census data are critical for people who need to know how many people live in the United States and where they live. In particular, the 2010 Census data is used to apportion representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Because the 2010 Census data is collected from the entire population, it is not subject to sampling error.

ACS data statistics will be available for all geographic areas with sufficient sample size for release. Data for Montana will be available at the state, reservation, county, city, town, place and census tracts levels.

The Census and Economic Information Center (CEIC), in the Montana Department of Commerce, is Montana's lead agency in the U.S. Census Bureau's State Data Center (SDC) Program. Since 1979, CEIC has provided training and technical assistance in accessing and using Census and other socioeconomic data for research, administration, planning, and decision making by the government, the business community, university researchers, and other interested data users.

ID Dept. of Finance:
COURTS ORDER OVER $6 MILLION FOR RESTITUTION IN THREE INVESTMENT ENFORCEMENT CASES

Boise, Idaho . . . The Idaho Department of Finance announced interim results today in several investment fraud lawsuits it pursued.  The courts ordered refunds to affected Idaho investors and placed various restrictions on the business practices of many of the defendants.

• Wise Enterprises, LLC & Wise Lending LLC – After failing to defend against the department’s lawsuit, the court found that these Idaho LLC defendants violated the registration and anti-fraud provisions of the Idaho Uniform Securities Act, while entering a money judgment of nearly $2.3 million in restitution and $160,000 in civil penalties.  The case involved misrepresentations made to investors that their funds would be used to extend secured bridge loans and other short-term loans to individuals and small businesses.  Litigation in this matter continues against Gerald Silence, the promoter and control person of the LLC defendants, and Shauna Silence, a “relief” defendant.

• James Catledge, Impact, Inc. & Impact Net Worth, LLC - A partial summary judgment was entered by the court, requiring these formerly Nevada defendants to comply with a consent order previously reached with the department. The court ordered nearly $2 million in rescission for the benefit of investors along with prejudgment interest of more than $400,000.  The case involved the promotion of investment interests in resort-related real estate developments located in the Dominican Republic.  Fraud and registration counts remain to be resolved in this case.

• Sonny L Jensen - This Utah resident failed to defend himself in the state’s action and a default judgment was entered which ordered Jensen to pay over $2.1 million in restitution and civil penalties of $40,000.  This case involved the promotion of real estate-related promissory notes, with most of the funds being forwarded to the control of another Utah man who is facing federal criminal charges in an alleged $100 million scheme. 

Investors are encouraged to contact the Department of Finance to check whether promoters and their investment offerings are properly qualified in Idaho.  The orders issued in these matters can be found on the Internet at http://finance.idaho.gov/civilactions or may be obtained by contacting the department at (208) 332-8004 or Idaho toll-free at 1-888-346-3378.

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (IRS)

Starting in 2011, Many Paid Preparers Must e-File Federal Income Tax Returns for Individuals, Estates and Trusts

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today detailed how, starting Jan. 1, 2011, paid tax return preparers can comply with a new law that requires paid tax return preparers who meet the definition of “specified tax return preparer” under the new law to electronically file (e-file) federal income tax returns that they prepare and file for individuals, trusts and estates.

The e-file requirement will be phased in over two years.

Starting Jan. 1, 2011, paid preparers who prepare income tax returns for individuals, trusts and estates, such as Forms 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, and Forms 1041, and who reasonably expect to file 100 or more of these income tax returns in 2011 are specified tax return preparers required to file these returns electronically.
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=231931,00.html

IRS Expands Use of Twitter to Help Taxpayers, Tax Professionals
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=232059,00.html

FBI

FBI’s IC3 Issues Alert on Telephone Payday Loan Scam

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, recently issued an alert regarding a telephone scam related to overdue payday loans.

http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/paydayloanscam_120710

WA Attorney General’s Office

E-commerce businessmen caught in Web of deceit

Judge sides with Washington Attorney General in consumer protection case against three companies and their owners

SEATTLE – The owners of an e-commerce company sued by the Washington Attorney General’s Office for repeatedly failing to deliver on their promises to help businesses nationwide sell their products online must pay for their actions, a judge decided.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office filed the civil lawsuit in May 2009 in King County Superior Court against three Washington men: Jeremy Avey, Alexander Martin and Brent Stanphill. Also addressed in the suit are the businesses the men operated, including Cybercom Technologies, which did business in Bothell as Wizy-Wiz eCommerce; TNT Cart, which also operated under the name Strada Technologies in Kirkland and Seattle; and White Crane Technologies, which operated in Redmond. Since starting their operation in 2005, the defendants have used at least eight business names and various locations in the Seattle and Eastside areas. Their most recent business name is ABC eCommerce.

FULL ORDER HERE
http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&id=26940

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (FTC.gov)

FTC Shuts Down Robocallers Who Falsely Promised to Lower Credit Card Interest Rates
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/12/jpm.shtm

3 Debt Relief Companies Charged by FTC with Deceptive Claims: Financial Freedom Processing, Debt Consultants of America and Debt Professionals of America
http://spokane.bbb.org/article/3-debt-relief-companies-charged-by-ftc-with-deceptive-claims-financial-freedom-processing-debt-consultants-of-america-and-debt-professionals-of-america-24051