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Beware this block grant scam

| February 4, 2021 1:00 AM

A couple of Coeur d’Alene readers have received text messages via Facebook messenger from a person claiming to be Agent Williams David. He says he is the online coordinator for the Community Services Block Grant programs in the U.S.

It appears that the scammers are using Facebook accounts to message people claiming that a friend or relative referred them for this program.

One of the readers asked Agent David where the money comes from and he stated the Federal Government is funding the program to help those in need. He also stated that the money did not need to be paid back.

He starts out by asking for the recipients email address and full name so that he can verify who they are. Once he does that, he sends a congratulatory notice that they have been chosen to win the money. In one case the amount “won” was $80,000. The scammer then mentions that he will need additional information to satisfy the claims requirements and allow FedEx to locate the recipient. It is a pretty good bet that the additional information required will allow him to steal your identity.

In reality, a CSBG is provided through federal funds to states, territories and tribes for distribution to local agencies to support a wide range of community-based activities to reduce poverty. The program coordinators do not contact Individuals for these grants and they certainly do not call individuals to offer money by phone, email, text or social media or request personal or financial information.

If you are aware of potentially fraudulent activity by individuals claiming to represent the CSBG, please report it to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at: https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/report-fraud/.

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Seniors are being targeted with Social Security scare

A few readers have reported that they have received calls and/or mailers from coalitions or alliances informing them that Social Security is going broke. For many seniors who rely on social security benefits to make ends meet this can be a scary bit of unwelcome news. The pitch is that for a monthly fee of around $15-$20 these organizations will fight to help you keep your Social Security benefits.

According to AARP, there have long been rumors that the Social Security program is going broke. But according to research, the facts suggest that as long as workers and employers pay payroll taxes, Social Security will not run out of money. It’s considered to be a pay-as-you-go system with revenue being generated from Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and Self-Employed Contributions Act (SECA) taxes which largely cover the benefits going out.

For decades, Social Security collected more than it paid out allowing it to build a surplus of $2.9 trillion by the end of 2019. But now the system is starting to pay out more than it takes in because of the retiring baby boomer population. Without changes in how Social Security is financed, the surplus is projected to run out in 2035, not the entire program.

So in other words, if no changes are made to the program, benefits could be reduced to 79 percent of one’s allotted benefits when the surplus runs out. To avoid this outcome, Congress may need to take action to change the program financing. Steps could include raising the full retirement age, increasing the payroll tax rate and possibly introducing higher income taxes on benefits received.

So it seems that these organizations that are stating the Social Security will run out money and your benefit will go to zero are targeting seniors by scaring them into forking over money in the form of monthly subscriptions fees. These are largely sham organizations that appear to get their money from these fees while not offering any benefit.

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IRS to offer taxpayers PINs to combat fraud

To help guard against identity theft when you file your taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is issuing taxpayers a six-digit PIN number.

Much like PINs with our financial accounts and computers, the PIN is an extra layer of security that is designed to protect taxpayers from scammers who may try to obtain your Social Security number to file a bogus tax return in your name in order to get a refund from the federal government.

If this happens, it is likely that your refund will be delayed while you prove to the IRS that it wasn’t you who filed the false return. The idea behind this extra layer of protection is that it is harder for scammers to have both your PIN and your Social Security number and without both, they won’t be able to file a fraudulent return.

Taxpayers who do decide to get a PIN will be issued a new PIN every year. If you were issued a PIN for the 2020 tax year due to identity theft, you will be sent a CP01A notice, which has your PIN at the top of the first column on page one. You can also request a PIN by using the “Get an IP PIN” tool, as long as you have a Social Security number or a taxpayer identification number.

For more information on how to get a PIN number for your tax return, check out the IRS website at: https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/get-an-identity-protection-pin. Also, our taxes are due on the traditional deadline of April 15.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.