Sunday, January 31, 2016

SCAMS- Anatomy of a Scam

I have reported a lot about scams and fraud over the last year. The best reason to pay attention to warnings about scams probably comes from a recent National Public Radio Planet Money episode about work at home scams.

While it covers only one segment of the scam universe, it does give an in depth picture of how scammers work, and the damage that they can do to a vulnerable individual.

Take some time to listen to this episode. It lasts a little over 20 minutes, so find some time to listen to all of it. Then take action to protect those who are vulnerable around you.

National Public Radio Planet Money:


Friday, January 29, 2016

TAX IDENTITY THEFT- Protect Yourself from Identity Thieves

In a Twitter chat (#IDTheftChat) held earlier today, participants revealed that there has been a 50% increase in ID theft complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2015, largely due to tax refund fraud. According to a FTC representative, the FTC received almost 500,000 ID theft complaints in 2015. 45.3% of those complaints were tax fraud related.

During the chat, hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center, experts gave out information about tax identity theft, how to protect yourself from it, and what to do if you become a victim.

Detecting if you have been victimized can be difficult for the average citizen. Often the only way that you might know that you have been victimized is a notice from the IRS that you have already filed your income tax, or possibly an IRS notice asking for information about unreported income. If you regularly check your information about your credit with the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian) you might see accounts that you do not recognize.

Their recommendation if you discover that you have become a victim of tax identity theft is to go to The web site will ask for information about what happened to you. This information will automatically be added to the FTC database on identity theft. Then it will help you to put together a recovery plan. For those people who create an account with the website, it will walk you through your recovery steps, update your plan as needed, track your progress and even pre-fill forms and letters for you.

Another resource that can help you is the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). If you want to talk to someone you can call ITRC at (888) 400-5530) for free assistance. ITRC also has a web page dedicated to tax ID theft at

Some ways that you can guard against tax ID theft include:

·         If at all possible, file your taxes early.

·         Take advantage of your free yearly check of your credit with the three credit reporting agencies. One good strategy is to check one of the credit reporting agencies every 4 months. That way you can check your records with one of the credit reporting agencies early in the year, then a second agency toward the middle of the year, and then with the third agency at the end of the year.

·         Be sure to shred any documents that have sensitive account information, account numbers, or your Social Security Number. The best shredder for this is a micro cut shredder which is impossible to piece together.

·         When filing your tax return, if you file by mail take it to a post office. If you file electronically, use a secure connection (for example your own secure internet connection) not public Wi-Fi.

·         Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.

·         Be careful of who you choose to be your tax preparer. The IRS has a web page with a searchable database to help you find a preparer at

·         Be careful of spear-phishing as described here

·         Do not give out your personal information when you receive an unsolicited email or phone call asking for that information.

·         Remember; if anyone calls you or emails you claiming that you owe back income taxes and/or fines and demands immediate payment, hang up!

Krebs on Security:





Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TAX IDENTITY THEFT- Prevent Id Thieves from Obtaining Your Personal Information

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is pointing out that tax time is the time of year to take precautions to protect your personal information.

Scammers will be on the hunt for your information so that they can file a tax return in your name and get a refund from the IRS. Some scammers will get that information from hackers who have successfully conducted data breaches from major organizations such as Hyatt Hotels, Scottrade, and the Office of Personnel Management in the federal government. Others might work locally by following postal carriers, like package thieves who follow UPS and FedEx trucks, to steal tax documents with sensitive personal information from W-2’s and 1099’s. With this information, the fraudster can file an IRS return in your name.

The IRS says that it is implementing procedures to detect fraud such as working with software filing companies to be alerted when a mobile device is used to file more than one tax return, when the same IP address is used to file more than one return, or when a tax return is auto-generated instead of filed by a live person.

You can protect yourself from mail theft by using a locking mailbox. If you don’t have a locking mailbox, ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail as soon as it is delivered. Also, keep track of the tax documents that you should be receiving. If by mid-February you have not received your documents, call the originator and ask why you have not received them. If one was sent to you, and you did not receive it, consider placing an immediate credit freeze with the major credit reporting bureaus.

Another measure to protect yourself is to file your income taxes as soon as possible. Try to get ahead of the fraudster.





Monday, January 25, 2016


If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, hang up. The IRS will not call you initially if it thinks that you owe it money. It will send you are letter.

Scammers frequently will claim to be IRS agents, claim that you owe money, and then demand immediate payment through Western Union or with a pre-paid money card. The IRS will not specify those means of payment. Sometimes the scammer will threaten arrest or deportation if you do not comply immediately.

If you receive a call like this, hang up and then report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at

Take a look at this video from the US Department of Treasury and pass it on to your friends, family and neighbors:

US Department of Treasury:

Federal Trade Commission:

Webinar tomorrow, January 26, at 11:00am PST on Tax Identity Theft-





Friday, January 22, 2016

IDENTITY THEFT- Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced next week, January 25-29, as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.

With tax season on us, ID thieves and scammers are in high gear to take your money through fraud. Tax fraud is a big problem for the IRS and for tax payers. Scammers use two methods to get to your money through the IRS. One way is to obtain your personal information, name, address, social security number, and file an income tax return as you, then obtain a refund from the IRS. The other way is to pose as an IRS agent in a phone call or email to you and demand immediate payment of a bogus fine or owed taxes. According to the US Treasury Department, it has received 900,000 reports of IRS scam calls since October of 2013.

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week is an attempt to educate everyone about these threats.

Note- There has been an increasing effort to educate the public about IRS scams. The federal government loses money as well as victimized citizens. You can help by learning all that you can about the IRS scams and pass this information onto your family, neighbors and friends.






Saturday, January 16, 2016

CRIME PREVENTION UPDATE- Stolen Cars Down, Dog Poisoning Update, Position on 911 Outage

Here is information about the number of stolen cars in Snohomish County and some updates on stories that I covered recently:

Stolen Cars in Snohomish County. Last week, the Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force tweeted that car theft decreased 17.7% between 2014 and 2015 with a total of 2,706 vehicles stolen. When asked why the decrease, a task force representation attributed it to putting many auto thieves in prison. This included closing several 2014 auto theft cases. Those convicted of car theft averaged sentences of about 37.5 months in prison.

Comment: This obviously is good news for Snohomish County. It shows that the task force has a positive effect in reducing the number of vehicles stolen in the county. However, there still have been over 2,700 vehicles stolen in the county last year. And those convicted car thieves will be released after their sentences are over. A percentage of them will reoffend. There still is work to do for the task force and for us the citizens. We can still help by protecting our vehicles by locking the doors, taking the keys with us, and not keeping anything in view through the windows. Hopefully, with our help, the task force can reduce the number of stolen cars some more in 2016.



Reported Dog Poisonings. Last month, I reported on suspected dog poisonings in the county ( Yesterday, The Herald reported that a dog was likely poisoned at Willis Tucker Park. The dog eventually died. A park ranger has been investigating the incident. A veter      inarian determined that the dog was poisoned with rat poison. But the ranger has not been able to confirm that the dog ate the poison at the park or somewhere else.

Over the past few weeks, there have numerous reports of local dog poisonings on social media. However, the Parks Department has only been able to confirm 4 dogs dying or becoming ill. And information about those incidents is sketchy.

Note: While it can be difficult to investigate dog poisonings, if someone is going around poisoning dogs, it is important to report it in a timely manner to help local authorities conduct an investigation and apprehend any perpetrators. Snohomish County Parks and Recreation has indicated that it wants to know about any suspicious activity (presumably on park property). They can be reached at (425) 388-6600 or For county areas other than parks, the county’s Animal Control Services division can be contacted at (425-388-3440) or online at

The Herald:

Snohomish County Parks and Recreation:

CenturyLink 911 Failure. The Herald has issued its opinion on the potential fine against CenturyLink over the 911 failure in 2014. Spoiler alert; the paper sides with the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson in encouraging the Utilities and Transportation Commission to levy the maximum fine. In making its argument, the editorial staff points out some facts that give insight on just how bad this problem has been and on how it has affected individuals in the county.

Note: The editorial is worth reading if only for the background that the paper gives about this issue. We heavily rely on technology for our daily lives as well as emergency situations. And Attorney General Ferguson’s emphasis on accountability is appropriate. Government and its contractors need to ensure the reliability of its emergency communications with the public. However, technology, while it can be robust, probably will never be perfect. Natural disasters can easily cut communications as well as power. As pointed out by KOMO recently ( it is a good idea to know alternate ways to call your local 911 agency should you need help in an emergency and have trouble contacting 911.

The Herald:





Wednesday, January 13, 2016

CALLING 911- Alternate Numbers

You may have seen the press coverage over the past week or so about the April 9-10, 2014, 6 hour 911 outage involving CenturyLink. Most recently, the Washington State Attorney General has stated that an almost $3 million settlement between CenturyLink and the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) is not high enough and that the UTC should impose the maximum legal penalty of $11.5 million (

Outages like this are rare. But outages can occur due to technical problems or severe weather, like when we have strong winter wind storms. Also, natural disasters such as a big earthquake could easily disrupt telephone communications. One possible way around an outage is to program the non-emergency/alternate 10 digit phone number for your local 911 agency in your cell phone or mobile phone. Those numbers are:

·         For SNOPAC that is (425) 407-3970.

·         For SNOCOM that is (425) 775-4545.

Also, knowing what is going on during a weather related or natural emergency is essential to your safety. Keeping an old fashioned battery operated radio is important to keeping informed. Also, sign up for alerts from Snohomish County that can be delivered either by email and/or text message from the county Department of Emergency Management. You can sign up for these messages at

Thanks to Lisa and Paul for the tip.



Tuesday, January 12, 2016


The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will hold a free 12 week Citizen’s Academy beginning on March 2. Classes will be held weekly in the evenings from 6pm to 9:30pm.
The Citizen’s Academy is an excellent opportunity to learn about how the Sheriff’s Office works and to learn about the wide variety of missions that the Sheriff’s Office is responsible for carrying out. Subjects that will be covered will include:

·         K-9 enforcement

·         Drugs and gangs

·         Crime scene technology

·         Search and rescue

·         Special weapons and tactics (SWAT)

·         The gun range

·         911 and dispatch

·         Active shooter response

·         Major crime investigations

·         Patrol procedures and equipment

·         Traffic operations

·         Vehicle collision investigations

·         Child abuse

·         Jail operations

Attending the Citizens Academy will give you insights into the Sheriff’s Office that will help you in your efforts to protect your family and neighborhood.

A background check is required for all participants. If you would like to apply, go to:

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office:

STANWOOD- Burglary Suspects Sought

The North Snohomish County Property Crimes Unit is looking for a male and female couple who broke into a Stanwood home on December 7, 2015.

The couple drove a late 1990’s green Honda Accord.

The male is described as a white, 6’3”, and skinny. The female is white, in her 20’s, and about 5’6”

If you know their names, call Crime Stoppers. You may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. You can call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
See link below for video.

Washington’s Most Wanted/David Rose:


Saturday, January 9, 2016

SCAM UPDATE- Sweepstakes, Social Media, and More

With the start of 2016, scammers will continue to call, email, and use social media to try to take your identity and take your money. Here are some scams to watch out for and tips to protect yourself from modern thieves:

·         The AARP Fraud Watch Network has issued a warning to Publishers Clearing House (PCH) players about scammers calling, emailing, sending letters and using social media to people and claiming that they have won the “$5,000-a-week-forever” prize. The trick is the scammers want some money up front for you to “claim” your prize. The sweepstakes will be awarded on February 26.  Remember, if you did not enter, you did not win. And if you did enter the PCH sweepstakes, the winner will be notified by the PCH team, Prize Patrol van and all, in person, just like in their advertising. For smaller prizes, usually less than $1,000, the company says that it notifies winners via overnight delivery services, certified mail, or email, not by phone, text messages, Facebook, emails (for major prizes), or “regular” USPS delivered letters. For more about this scam go to:

o   Here is an example of how PCH delivers the news to a lucky winner:

·         Apparently young, new drivers are posting pictures of their first driver’s licenses on social media such as Facebook to show that they have made it one more step to adulthood. By doing so however, they leave themselves open to ID thieves collecting their names, addresses, dates of birth, ID numbers, and signatures. ID theft against children is major problem that usually is not discovered until the child reaches adulthood and begins to apply for loans, mortgages or an apartment. While earning a driver’s license is an exciting time, encourage your child not to overshare their personal information on social media.

·         The AARP Fraud Watch Network also suggests that to get a good start to 2016 that you take some practical measures to prevent ID theft. Freezing your credit, checking your credit report, thinking before you act, being less social on social media, cleaning your wallet, and regularly changing your passwords, will help you to protect your identity. For more detail, go to:

·         Scammers use any tools that they can to take your money including the phone, at your door, and online. They can get your phone number or email by purchasing them from companies that sell this kind of data, purchasing a “sucker list” from other scammers of people who have fallen for scams, or from giveaways, sweepstakes, or surveys that people voluntarily sign up for. For more information on specific scams going around, go to:

·         Phishing is a technique that tries to get you to click on a link embedded in an email that will download malware into your computer or take you to a web site that asks for your personal information. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning businesses and colleges about a phishing scam that claims to protect you from phishing scams. When you are at work, you might receive an email that appears to be from your IT department with a subject line similar to “Mailbox Helpdesk” and saying that “new security updates need to be performed on our servers, due to the rate of phishing.” To receive the update, all you have to do is to click on the link. The BBB says don’t do it! The link will download malware to your computer. For tips on how to avoid the phishing scam, go to:




Wednesday, January 6, 2016

SEAHAWKS IN PLAYOFFS- Watch Out for Scammers

With the Seahawks in the playoffs again this year, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning Seahawk fans that scammers will be out to take their money with too-good-to-be-true offers for tickets, travel packages and Seahawk accessories. For the past few years, local TV news stations have run stories of Seahawk fans losing money, and being disappointed in not being able to go to the games that they thought they had paid for during the playoffs.

The BBB quotes the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau ( as saying that counterfeiting is a $600 billion a year business. And in 2014, federal agents seized more than $21.6 million in fake NFL merchandise.

There are things that you can do to protect yourself from fraud. The BBB recommends that you:

Start with trust. Use reputable and verifiable ticket resellers. BBB recommends the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB; as they offer a 200% money-back guarantee.

Read the fine print. Just because a travel package has “NFL Playoffs” in the name doesn’t mean it includes tickets; if game tickets are not explicitly mentioned in ads, do not assume they are included.

Understand the law. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires sellers to have tickets in-hand before they can advertise inclusive ticket/airfare packages.

Pass on the fakes. Be watchful for counterfeit merchandise sold at blockbuster prices. Official Seahawks gear can only be sold by authorized retailers.

Research hotels and locations. Dishonest businesses may advertise that they are close to the stadium or “walking distance” when in fact they are not, requiring extra expenditures for car rentals or taxis.

Get everything in writing. Before making payments, make sure contracts clearly outline all the terms and conditions of packages, including cancellation policies and related fees.

Also, as much fun as it may be to go to a game on the spur of the moment, the BBB warns that you should never feel pressure to make immediate decisions. Plan ahead; take the time to research your options and the businesses that you will be working with. You can use the BBB’s search page at research businesses.

And, GO HAWKS!!!!!!!