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IRS Repeats Warning about Phone Scams

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration continue to hear from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS.

Based on the 90,000 complaints that TIGTA has received through its telephone hotline, to date, TIGTA has identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams.

“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:

  • Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations
  • Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.

Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.

Other characteristics of these scams include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.

For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.

You can reblog the IRS tax scam alert via Tumblr.

Africans Living in the U.S. Connect with Culture through New Network

Spokesperson for Africa Magic GO, Juliet Ibrahim

Spokesperson for Africa Magic GO, Juliet Ibrahim

Interview by Naomi K. Bonman

Africa Magic GO has recently launched in the United States. The network is similar to “Hulu”, in offering the latest film and television series from the Continent of Africa. Now Africans living in the U.S., and other African culture lovers can connect with the African culture by tuning in via their computer and mobile devices.

This new service is available at just $8 a month where customers can stream hundreds of movies and TV shows. African Magic GO also helps people tap into the prolific offerings of the world’s largest film industry, Nollywood, as well as productions from other parts of Africa. To assist in getting the word out, popular Ghanaian actress, Juliet Ibrahim, is one of the new spokespeople for the network.

In addition to acting, Miss Ibrahim is a business-oriented person who proudly owns Envoque Beauty Parlor, House of Glamour boutique, Dolfins Modeling Agency, and Jewels Productions. She also recently delved into music and is soon to debut her album. In December 2011, the actress launched her Juliet Ibrahim Foundation (JIF) to start an awareness campaign about kidney cancer. The JIF is aimed at helping Ghanaians and other West African citizens to know their status and prevent kidney cancer from getting to the incurable stage. JIF is poised to help save lives and put smiles on the faces of the less fortunate living with kidney cancer but can’t afford to handle their bills.

Question and Answer with Miss Juliet:

Naomi K. Bonman: What inspired you to become involved with Africa Magic GO?

Juliet Ibrahim: Africa Magic is a major brand in Africa. It is a privilege to be a part of their new product Africa Magic GO, which enables Africans in the Diaspora to stay in touch with their roots while living abroad. Finally, my fans living abroad can get to watch my exclusive movies, TV shows and TV series way before the movie comes out on DVD. It’s a good brand to be associated with as a celebrity from Africa. For my fans reading this article, they can log on to www.africamagicgo.com and register and watch one of my latest movies on there is called “Blurred Lines.”

Naomi K. Bonman: What projects are you currently working on?

Juliet Ibrahim: I just wrapped filming my second personal movie production called “Shattered Romance,” and it’s a project I am so proud of. It features both Nigerian and Ghanaian actors. I am also promoting my new music video “It’s Over Now,” which is enjoying a lot of airplay currently. Lastly, I’ve been on a campaign to educate the public and create awareness for my kidney cancer awareness foundation; it’s been successful so far.

Naomi K. Bonman: Do you have any upcoming plans on doing more work here in the States?

Juliet Ibrahim: Certainly! I intend to work here in the States and am very open to offers and various opportunities here. I am not limited to working only in Africa. I am currently looking for an amazing PR person and manager out here in the U.S. so we get a lot of work done. Juliet Ibrahim is a brand that I believe needs to expand and be known worldwide. I have plans of launching my NGO in the United States as well; it’s already been registered out here.

For more information on the network, visit www.africamagicgo.com. To read more on Juliet Ibrahim visit www.julietibrahim.net.

Misee Harris Calls Out “OUR GENERATION” Dolls and TARGET for Racism

Misee Harris (left) calls out OUR GENERATION Dolls and TARGET for racism and discrimination

Misee Harris (left) calls out OUR GENERATION Dolls and TARGET for racism and discrimination

Media personality, Misee Harris, is calling out OUR GENERATION Doll Maker on the representation of their sole African American doll, Abrianna, and TARGET for selling the brand in its stores.

“A doll company that prides itself on representing who we are as a community and a generation has gotten it wrong’” insists Misee Harris.

OUR GENERATION Dolls offers four categories: The “Regular Doll” is simply a doll with no added accessories; the “Deluxe Doll” which comes with clothing, grooming and activity-related accessories; the “Retro Doll;” and the “Hair Play Doll” with its long, straight locks. At TARGET, which has a whole aisle dedicated to the company, The Deluxe Doll retails for $31.99 and includes a full suite of accessories. The Regular Doll retails for $29.99, and her accessories must be purchased separately. “Abrianna,” the company’s only African American doll, is sold in select TARGET stores and comes with no accessories.

“For $2.00, there is a huge difference with what you receive,” points out Harris.

There is no option in the OUR GENERATION Doll Collection for a Deluxe African American doll that includes accessories and retails for $31.99.

“After searching several TARGET stores for an African American Deluxe OUR GENERATION Doll to showcase and giveaway on my YouTube Channel,” states Harris, “I finally found “Abrianna” at a TARGET in a neighborhood with a large African American population. In order to buy all of the extras for Abrianna, which come included with each Caucasian Deluxe Doll, I had to spend an additional $60.00.”

Misee Harris has created a YouTube channel at YouTube.com/MiseeHarris, where she gives away her favorite beauty, style and collectible items to her subscribers, which her and her team curate. On her most current video, Misee used her platform to bring awareness to this issue regarding the OUR GENERATION Dolls, stating, “We are a generation of all ethnicities. As an African American woman who is a doctor, business owner, professor and outspoken advocate for the positive and accurate depiction of African American women, I can assure OUR GENERATION Dolls and TARGET that this is not a good representation of minorities.”

If OUR GENERATION is really just that, our generation, shouldn’t it reflect that? “We are a country made up of little girls and women who are Caucasian, Asian, African American, Indian, Latino and Multiracial backgrounds. That is our generation,” states Misee.

“I challenge OUR GENERATION Dolls to re-think their product and how they are represented on retail shelves, and I challenge TARGET to exhibit greater social responsibility and sensitivity with the products it carries in its stores,” concludes Misee Harris.

About Misee Harris

A pediatric dentist and professor of dentistry at Meharry School of Pediatric Dentistry by trade, Misee made waves in the media throughout the past year with her public campaign to become television’s first black Bachelorette. Appearing on HLN’s Showbiz TonightThe Hallmark Channel’s Home & FamilyMSNBC’s TheGrio.com and HuffPost Liveamong other outlets, Misee has stated her case for the equality and positive depiction of African American women in the media. Misee’s platform has been dissected and written about in The New York Times and on countless blogs, including SheKnows.com. Misee is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.