State Urges Consumers to Beware of Tax Season Scams

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Misleading offers promise ‘free’ help

The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services is urging Oregonians not to fall victim to tax season scams promising “free” help around debt management.

Under Oregon law, those offering help in debt management, such as foreclosure avoidance, short sales, modifying loans or negotiating with a consumer’s creditors to reduce monthly payments for a fee, must be registered with the state. The law sets maximum fees that debt management companies can charge. The maximum upfront fee a company may charge is $50, and the maximum monthly fee is $65.

Particularly during this time of year, consumers may be solicited for debt services in relation to tax assistance. The department is encouraging consumers to obtain information about tax questions from the IRS or by consulting a licensed tax preparer.

“We recognize many people are struggling financially but consumers need to be cautious,” said David Tatman, administrator of the department’s Division of Finance and Corporate Securities. “Oregon has strong protections in place for debt management companies. Don’t be duped by a tax season scheme.”

The department has recently seen fliers and websites offering “free” help with the 2007 Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. In one instance, a flier was disguised with symbols to make it appear that it came from a government agency.

Consumers can search for registered debt management companies by going to the division’s website at www.dfcs.oregon.gov/debt_mgmt.html or by calling the department toll-free at 1-866-814-9710. The site also has a frequently asked questions section and encourages Oregonians to report companies who are illegally advertising debt-related services in the state.

For more information on the Mortgage Forgiveness Relief Act, visit the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=179414,00.html.

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