The St. Louis Consumer Fraud Task Force (CFTF) warns area consumers to be wary of scams related to stimulus payments during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The government’s issuance of stimulus packages during COVID-19 has opened the door to scammers who are trying to take advantage of unsuspecting people.
Scammers are attempting to get money and personal identifying information from consumers, using the stimulus packages and the pandemic as a hook.
Task Force members have received hundreds of consumer reports dealing with stimulus scams during the pandemic. A number of imposter scams have surfaced this year related to COVID-19. Many of the fraudsters use COVID-19 as part of their ruse.
A woman from the southwest Missouri town of Flemington reported to Better Business Bureau (BBB) ScamTracker last month that she was offered a “Corona Grant” through a text message. The text said the money didn’t have to be repaid as it was being given to the recipient by the government.
“They said they needed us to put in our full names and check with their database,” the woman said. “I gave my and my husband’s full names, and then they sent back via text a link for me to click on for me to get (the money). They were offering whatever money I needed in order to get the job done. I didn’t tell them how much I needed, but said I was interested in checking into this. I thought about it and realized that it wasn’t a real deal.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received nearly 60,000 COVID-related scam reports with more than $70 million in losses this year. In addition, consumers have reported nearly 18,000 cases of identity theft nationwide in 2020.
Last month, the FTC filed suit in the Eastern District of Louisiana against a marketing firm which allegedly used deceptive advertising with COVID-19 stimulus messaging. The FTC says Traffic Jam Events, LLC, of Kenner, Louisiana, sent mailers labeled as “important COVID-19 stimulus documents” and directed recipients to a “relief headquarters” to “claim stimulus incentives.” The mailers included checks from a “Stimulus Relief Program” account. The “relief headquarters” wound up being a used car lot in Florida that was hosting a sale.
The Task Force says consumers should be aware of several things to protect themselves against stimulus package-related scams:
- Keep track of your payment. Millions of Americans have received their Economic Impact Payments, which have been distributed by direct deposit, check and debit card. Any debit cards will be sent in an envelope with the words “Money Network Cardholder Services” on it. To check on the status of your stimulus payment, check the IRS website. The IRS has produced a video to help consumers with questions about their Economic Impact Payment.
- Ignore any contact attempts. No agency is going to text, email or ask you to click on a link to activate your stimulus card or to receive your money. Unless you initiate the call seeking help, no one will call you about your Economic Impact Payment. If someone texts, emails or calls you about your payment, don’t give them any personal or financial information.
- Monitor your credit. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows consumers a free copy of their credit report every 12 months. The three major credit reporting companies have agreed to offer free weekly reports through 2021. Reviewing credit reports can help consumers catch signs of identity theft.
- Report the bad actors. You can report stimulus-related scams to BBB ScamTracker, the FTC, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and your state’s attorney general.
The Task Force, formed in October 2002, is a coalition of local, state and federal government agencies and nonprofit business and consumer groups in Missouri and Illinois that work together to protect consumer and donor rights and guard against fraud.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Task Force has met on a monthly basis to share information in an attempt to keep consumers safe.
The group has tackled predatory payday loan offers, tax scams, timeshare fraud, credit repair and foreclosure scams, bogus sweepstakes, internet sweetheart scams, phony grant scams, home remodeling, elder fraud, payment scams and a variety of other issues.
To obtain information, or to report a scam, contact members of the Task Force:
- Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern and Southwest Missouri and Southern Illinois – (888) 996-3887; BBB.org
- Federal Trade Commission – (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357); ftc.gov
- Federal Bureau of Investigations – (314) 589-2500
- Illinois Attorney General – (800) 243-0618; illinoisattorneygeneral.gov
- Illinois Secretary of State – Securities Department – 800-628-7937
- Missouri Attorney General – (800) 392-8222; ago.mo.gov
- St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department – (314) 231-1212; www.slmpd.org
- U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Missouri – (314) 539-2200; www.usdoj.gov/usao/moe
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service – (877) 876-2455; postalinspectors.uspis.gov
- U.S. Secret Service – (314) 539-2238; www.secretservice.gov
PGX Holdings, Inc. — Moody’s announces completion of a periodic review of ratings of PGX Holdings, Inc.
Announcement of Periodic Review: Moody’s announces completion of a periodic review of ratings of PGX Holdings, Inc.Global Credit Research – 26 Feb 2021New York, February 26, 2021 — Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) has completed a periodic review of the ratings of PGX Holdings, Inc. and other ratings that are associated with the same analytical unit. The review was conducted through a portfolio review discussion held on 23 February 2021 in which Moody’s reassessed the appropriateness of the ratings in the context of the relevant principal methodology(ies), recent developments, and a comparison of the financial and operating profile to similarly rated peers. The review did not involve a rating committee. Since 1 January 2019, Moody’s practice has been to issue a press release following each periodic review to announce its completion.This publication does not announce a credit rating action and is not an indication of whether or not a credit rating action is likely in the near future. Credit ratings and outlook/review status cannot be changed in a portfolio review and hence are not impacted by this announcement. For any credit ratings referenced in this publication, please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the most updated credit rating action information and rating history.Key rating considerations are summarized below.PGX Holdings, Inc.’s (“Progrexion”) Caa2 Corporate Family Rating reflects the company’s unsustainable capital structure due to Moody’s expectations for continuing operating challenges from declines in revenue and earnings. The rating also reflects the overhang from the ongoing CFPB investigation that could lead to the need for the company to change its business model. Positively, the rating considers Progrexion’s leading market position within the credit repair services industry and strong profit margins despite margin compression.This document summarizes Moody’s view as of the publication date and will not be updated until the next periodic review announcement, which will incorporate material changes in credit circumstances (if any) during the intervening period.The principal methodology used for this review was Business and Consumer Service Industry published in October 2016. Please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.This announcement applies only to EU rated, UK rated, EU endorsed and UK endorsed ratings. Non EU rated, non UK rated, non EU endorsed and non UK endorsed ratings may be referenced above to the extent necessary, if they are part of the same analytical unit.This publication does not announce a credit rating action. For any credit ratings referenced in this publication, please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on www.moodys.com for the most updated credit rating action information and rating history. Oleg Markin Asst Vice President – Analyst Corporate Finance Group Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. 250 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10007 U.S.A. JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376 Client Service: 1 212 553 1653 Karen Nickerson Associate Managing Director Corporate Finance Group JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376 Client Service: 1 212 553 1653 Releasing Office: Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. 250 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10007 U.S.A. JOURNALISTS: 1 212 553 0376 Client Service: 1 212 553 1653 © 2021 Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., Moody’s Analytics, Inc. and/or their licensors and affiliates (collectively, “MOODY’S”). All rights reserved.CREDIT RATINGS ISSUED BY MOODY’S CREDIT RATINGS AFFILIATES ARE THEIR CURRENT OPINIONS OF THE RELATIVE FUTURE CREDIT RISK OF ENTITIES, CREDIT COMMITMENTS, OR DEBT OR DEBT-LIKE SECURITIES, AND MATERIALS, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND INFORMATION PUBLISHED BY MOODY’S (COLLECTIVELY, “PUBLICATIONS”) MAY INCLUDE SUCH CURRENT OPINIONS. MOODY’S DEFINES CREDIT RISK AS THE RISK THAT AN ENTITY MAY NOT MEET ITS CONTRACTUAL FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS AS THEY COME DUE AND ANY ESTIMATED FINANCIAL LOSS IN THE EVENT OF DEFAULT OR IMPAIRMENT. SEE APPLICABLE MOODY’S RATING SYMBOLS AND DEFINITIONS PUBLICATION FOR INFORMATION ON THE TYPES OF CONTRACTUAL FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS ADDRESSED BY MOODY’S CREDIT RATINGS. 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How to protect from scams
Dear DO Line Readers: National Consumer Protection Week begins Sunday, Feb. 28. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and more than 100 federal, state, and local agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations will participate in the 23rd annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW). It will run through March 6.
NCPW is a coordinated campaign designed to focus on the importance of keeping consumers informed.
• • • •
We decided to participate in this Consumer Protection Week by checking out some of the worst money and phone scams so that our Daily News DO Line readers will be informed. We know that our weekly readers may recognize these scams from previous articles.
• Phone scams: The FTC says that people might a lot of money to phone scams – sometimes their life savings. Scammers have figured out countless ways to cheat people out of their money over the phone. In some scams, they act friendly and helpful. In others, they might threaten or try to scare people. One thing we can count on is that a phone scammer will try hard to get money or personal information to commit identity theft.
• Imposter scams: A scammer pretends to be someone you trust such as a government agency like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or someone claiming there is a problem with your computer. The scammer can even have a fake name or number that shows up on your caller ID to convince you.
• Debt relief and credit repair scams: Scammers will offer to lower your credit card interest rates, fix your credit, or get your student loans forgiven if you pay their company a fee first. But you could end up losing your money and ruining your credit.
• Charity scams: Scammers like to pose as charities. Scams requesting donations for disaster relief efforts are especially common on the phone. We should always check out a charity before giving money. Also, do not feel pressured to give immediately while on the phone.
• Trials that are “Free”: A caller might promise a free trial but then sign you up for products — sometimes lots of products — that you are billed for every month until you cancel.
Here’s how we can stop calls from scammers:
• Hang up. When you receive a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Instead of letting you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, it might lead to more robocalls.
• Consider call blocking or call labeling. Scammers can use the internet to make calls from all over the world. They do not care if you are on the National Do Not Call Registry. That is why your best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking. Which type of call-blocking (or call-labeling) technology you use will depend on the phone — whether it is a mobile phone, a traditional landline, or a home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP). It is recommended that you see what services your phone carrier offers and look online for expert reviews. For mobile phones, you can check out the reviews for different call-blocking apps in your online app store.
• Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. That’s called spoofing. So even if it looks like it is a government agency or the call is from a local number, it could be a scammer calling from anywhere in the world. You can learn more about unwanted calls and what to do about them at ftc.gov/calls.
The FTC points out what to do if you already paid a scammer:
• If you paid a scammer with a credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your credit card company or bank right away. Tell them what happened and ask for a “chargeback” to reverse the charges.
• If you paid a scammer with a gift card, prepaid card, or cash reload card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the card, and ask if they can refund your money. The sooner you contact them, the better chance they will be able to get your money back.
• If you gave your username and password to a scammer, change your password right away. You should then create a new strong password.
• If you have given your Social Security Number to a scammer, visit identitytheft.gov to learn how to monitor your credit report to see if your number is being misused.
Credit repair specialist Alex Miller explains the process of repairing your credit report
Credit repair specialist Alex Miller explains the process of repairing your credit report
A good credit score can be a very powerful tool. From securing loans to buying a house, your credit score can be the key to pursuing significant purchases in your life, helping you build a better and brighter future. The truth is, many people don’t have a perfect credit score, and that is ok. Credit repair specialist Alex Miller has worked with many individuals looking to improve their credit scores and get more out of life. From his personal experience, he explains there are three actionable ways to improve your credit score.
1. Pay all your bills on time.
A credit card payment that is 30 days late can knock 100 points off your credit score. This is why paying your bills on time is crucial. “Of course, paying your bills on time is ideal. It prevents your score from taking a hit and cultivates good credit habits,” says Alex. “If you find yourself in a position, whether it be due to job loss or even the pandemic, try to work with your creditor first before missing a payment.”
2. Pay down your balances.
“Paying down your balances is helpful because it lowers your credit utilization ratio,” explains Alex. “Reducing your credit card debt can increase your credit score by roughly 84 points.” It is essential to keep your income-to-debt ratio as low as you can, and keeping a minimal or zero balance is a great way to do that.
3. Pay in full going forward.
Once you’ve caught up on your bills and paid off your balances, Alex recommends trying to pay your bill in full every month. “By paying your statement in full, you prevent yourself from slipping into overspending habits that could negatively affect your credit score,” states Alex. “You’ve taken the time to build better habits. You want to stay that way.”
In managing his firm, Alex has seen all kinds of credit troubles, but he remains confident that there is no problem too big to fix. Alex elaborates, “Combining improved spending habits with adequate money management is the number one step we can all take to increase our credit scores.”
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