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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Consumer protection

Many Idahoans likely to qualify for payments under DRAM settlement, deadline approaching…

Many Idahoans who bought products containing DRAM, or dynamic random access memory chips, between 1998 and 2002 are due a refund thanks to a price-fixing settlement, according to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, but the Aug. 1 deadline for filing claims is past approaching. DRAM typically is either sold separately or pre-installed in electronic devices such as computers, servers, graphics cards, video game consoles, MP3 players, printers, PDAs, DVD players, and digital video recorders. The minimum refund for people who submit qualifying claims is $10; click below for more information.

Aggressive callers target Idahoans in ‘IRS agent’ scam

Idahoans increasingly are being targeted by a scam in which aggressive callers claim to be IRS agents and threaten arrest, liens, and even “bodily harm” if the victims don’t pay up immediately, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden reported today. “We’ve seen steady reporting of the IRS scam in the last few months,” Wasden said, as he released the annual report of his Consumer Protection Division – which received more than 800 complaints over the past year and recovered $1.9 million in restitution for wronged consumers. “The best response is to simply hang up on these crooks.”

Jennifer Pedregon of Boise, shown here, said she heard her parents’ answering machine receive a call from what sounded like a real IRS agent – including badge number and phone number to call back – saying her dad owed taxes and needed to get back to the “agent,” “otherwise further legal action would be taken within eight to 10 days.” She was concerned, but then her cell phone rang, and she received an identical call, this time threatening her rather than her father. “I realized that that was probably not a legitimate IRS agent,” Pedregon said.

Deana DuVall of Meridian got a message on her answering machine from a heavily accented caller claiming to be an IRS agent and demanding a call back on her husband’s case. When she returned the call, the man demanded her phone number; she declined. “He started yelling at me,” she said. “He said, “We will have your husband arrested in 45 minutes – we’re coming.” The man called back later that afternoon, DuVall said. “We knew it had to be fraud. But it was scary, because they knew personal things about my husband and me – we don’t know how.” Both women filed complaints with the Attorney General’s office.  

Some of the scammers have managed to mask their phone numbers so it looks like the calls come from toll-free IRS numbers; some have correctly given the last four digits of the intended victim’s Social Security number. Brett DeLange, head of the office’s Consumer Protection Division, said, “The IRS is not going to call you and say you owe money. … That’s just not how they do business. You’re going to get a notice in the mail.” He said, “The most important message is hang up, and the sooner the better – don’t talk to these people. They’re criminals.”

Idaho has been receiving steady reports of the scam statewide in recent months, though it’s been around for several years, DeLange said. It’s among an array of consumer-protection issues the office addresses. Among the highlights of the past year for the office was the successful federal antitrust lawsuit rejecting the purchase of Saltzer Medical Group by St. Luke’s Health System; that ruling is now on appeal. The division also has recovered millions for Idahoans in cases involving everything from e-books to pharmaceutical pricing to discount clubs.

Wasden said the nearly $2 million in recoveries for Idaho consumers amounts to $2.72 for each taxpayer dollar appropriated for consumer operations in 2014. The full Consumer Protection Division annual report, released today, is online here.

Idahoans targeted for bogus club memberships get refunds under settlement

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says a Connecticut company has agreed to pay more than 7,000 Idahoans restitution as part of a settlement over bogus club memberships. The settlement announced Thursday comes in a case brought by Idaho and 46 other states against Affinion and its subsidiary companies. The refunds are part of a $32 million settlement with the company, which was accused of tricking consumers into signing up and paying for discount clubs and memberships. Wasden estimates there are 7,600 members of such clubs in Idaho. Wasden estimates that Idahoans affiliated with the clubs and memberships will be eligible to receive an estimated $500,000. Affinion and its subsidiaries operated multiple discount clubs and membership programs, with names such as Buyer Assurance, Complete Savings, HealthSaver and PrivacyGuard. The clubs offered services like credit monitoring, roadside assistance and discounted travel. Consumers eligible for a refund will be notified by Affinion, Trilegiant and Webloyalty. Those who believe they are eligible but receive no notice from those companies can file a complaint with the Attorney General.

Consumer protection chief targeted in fraud

Of all the people to be targeted by identify theft: The head of Idaho's consumer protection division? Deputy Attorney General Brett DeLange tells the Idaho Statesman today that fraudulent charges were made to his credit card, and the first he knew of it came when the credit card company called him to verify that he'd ordered five video cameras - he hadn't. DeLange immediately checked his credit card online and found several other fraudulent charges; he notified the credit card company, which canceled the account and took care of the charges, reports Idaho Statesman reporter Sandra Forester. DeLange is suggesting that all credit card users monitor their statements regularly for unusual activity. You can read Forester's full story here.
  

Scammers target Idaho grandparents

Scammers from Canada have been targeting Idaho seniors, posing as grandchildren who have run into trouble while abroad and need money wired right away; three Idaho families have fallen for the scam in the past two weeks, the Idaho Attorney General's office reports, and lost thousands of dollars. “You may think that you wouldn’t fall for these scams, but they’re designed to catch you off guard,” said Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “Con artists play on your fears to make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.” Click below to read the full “Consumer Alert” Wasden issued today.

Mortgage practices top consumer protection complaints in 2010

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Complaints about mortgage practices kept lawyers in Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's office busy last year. Wasden released his annual consumer protection report for 2010 on Tuesday. He says his attorneys handled 261 complaints about loans, compared to just 109 in 2009. In response, Wasden says his office pursued several enforcement actions against deceptive loan modification companies. It also hired a housing counselor to assist Idaho homeowners and spearheaded a public education program related to foreclosures, mortgage modifications and purchasing a home. Other significant consumer protection activity included lawsuits and settlements with pharmaceutical manufacturers over their marketing and pricing of drugs. Wasden says lawyers in the consumer protection division recovered nearly $6 million in restitution, the second largest amount ever recovered by the attorney general's office.

Deceptive extended auto warranty sellers barred from doing business in Idaho

The owners of a bankrupt firm that once was the largest seller of extended auto warranties in the nation have been barred from doing business in Idaho, under a settlement announced today by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “These individuals got rich by blanketing the country with deceptive mailings, unwanted telephone calls, and high pressure sales tactics, often aimed at senior citizens,” Wasden said.  “They made millions selling nearly worthless service contracts, in many cases to people who were covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. This settlement prohibits them from repeating those practices in Idaho.”

Wasden and ten other state attorneys general sued the defunct company and its owners earlier this year, alleging the illegal actions stemming from deceptive junk mail, telemarketing robocalls and misleading TV ads. Click below to read Wasden’s full news release.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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