Make Every Dollar Count! – National Consumers League

It only takes a trip to the grocery store to realize that the cost of food and gas is way up. Now more than ever, it is important to carefully review your receipts and bills to make sure that what you’re being charged accurately reflects what you think you’re buying!

How realistic is it, though, to expect shoppers to keep track of the prices they saw on shelves or weekly ads and remember them at the check-out? Our consumer experts at NCL say even if consumers don’t keep their eyes peeled to the price scanner, they still deserve to expect quality and integrity in the goods they buy and the customer service they receive.

There is a national government agency, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), whose mission it is to protect consumers by regulating weights and measures laws and regulations for every state. NIST’s procedures apply to all retail stores, including food, general merchandise and hardware stores, so we’re, in theory, protected from stores cheating us when we make a purchase.

Here are some tips to help you avoid being shortchanged:

  • When you see an ad for a product at a certain price, cut it out and have it handy when you shop
  • Jot down prices you see on a shelf or display sign
  • Pay attention at the check out stand – look at the register as your items are being scanned. If you see a price that doesn’t match what you were expecting to pay, say something! Don’t agree to pay more for an item just to be polite.
  • Review the receipt before leaving the store or checking out online to ensure you agree with the prices you have been charged.
  • If necessary, complain to the store and register a complaint with your state attorney general.
  • Learn how to “be a badger” to get what you want when you’re not satisfied with your service.


Check This Out: Sample Tax Scam Email – National Consumers League

So, we’re doing some education this time of year on tax scams – trying to make consumers aware that these criminals’ ploys are out there and help them avoid falling for them. But, it turns out that the tax scams aren’t just limited to the weeks leading up to April 15, the deadline to file taxes. Depending on the pitch, many of them happen year-round.

We did a little bit of digging and found an email sent to us by a friend a while back. Lucky for her, she was smart enough to recognize it was a scam (“I wish it were true …” her email began), but the email is pretty realistic-looking, and it wouldn’t be easy to immediately identify it as a scam – especially if your judgment is a little blurred because you need the cash. There are some give-aways, though. See for yourself:

From: “Internal Revenue Service”
Sent: 11/13/07 3:21 AM
Subject: You got $242,70 tax refund. Please follow the steps to get your refund.

Get Tax Refund on your VISA or MasterCard
You got $242,70 tax refund. Please follow the steps to get your refund.

Please enter your Social Security Number ( SSN ) and a valid VISA or MasterCard Number where you want the refund to be made.

We are asking for your personal information to ensure we access the correct account, enabling us to provide the tax refund.

We use and retain your personal information only for this purpose and only long enough to complete the transaction, ensure the security
of our systems, and as authorized by law. We do not share it other than as provided by law. If you choose not to provide it, we will not be
able to fully comply the tax return.

Internal Revenue Code Section 6108 allows us to request your Social Security Number, Debit Card Number, Expiration Date, Cvv Code
(located on the back of your debit card) and Atm Pin Code for use in maintaining and accessing tax return information.

If you do not enter complete and valid information we cannot provide tax return.

To collect the Tax Return please copy/paste the link below in your browser (or click the link below) and fill in all prompted information:

[deleted: live link to url of scam site]

*Note: For security reasons, we will record your ip-address, the date and time.
Deliberate wrong inputs are criminally pursued and indicated.

© Copyright 2007, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A.

Tax scammers are waiting to take your money – National Consumers League

March 25, 2008

Contact: 202-835-3323,

Washington, DC — Tax-related scams are on the rise, according to consumer complaints tracked by the National Consumers League’s Fraud Center. Reports of tax scams from consumers nearly quadrupled in 2007 from the year before, and the trend seems to be continuing into 2008

“This time of year – and with the economy in the shape it’s currently in – crooks see vulnerable prey in consumers feeling the squeeze at tax time, said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League. “Posing as

IRS officials, these criminals pretend to be helping consumers claim a refund they’re due, but they’re really setting up a sting to steal consumers’ hard-earned cash. Consumers who are eager to get their refund faster may be vulnerable to these pitches.”

In the scam, which was first reported to NCL’s Fraud Center in April 2005, the two most common scenarios are both “Phishing” schemes: the victim receives a phone call from an “IRS employee” offering a tax refund – however, they need the taxpayer’s checking account number, he or she is told, in order to deposit the money.  Alternately, the victim gets an email claiming to be from the IRS – often with a realistic-looking sender address – stating that the consumer is due a refund and needs to click on a link and enter their personal financial information in order to have it processed.

“Our Fraud Center received close to 50 complaints in 2007, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, since many people don’t report these scams due to embarrassment,” said Greenberg. “Many consumers who do report have been too savvy to fall victim. However, with tax season upon us, and as scammers’ pitch continues to evolve, we’re cautioning consumers against falling for the bait.

Tips for Consumers:

  • Be immediately suspicious if someone claiming to be from the IRS or any other government agency contacts you.
  • Do not give out any personal information – legitimate government agencies will have a consumer’s contact information on file and should not need you to provide it.
  • Ask the caller to follow-up with you via regular mail, or hang up and call the agency’s phone number – obtained from a credible source, such as the official Web site or the government pages of your phone book.

Other tax-related scams reported to NCL’s Fraud Center include:

  • Offers to provide “tax relief,” or assistance with clearing or reducing tax payments consumers owe to the government.
  • Con artists claiming to be government representatives calling to initiate payment transfer of impending government tax “rebates” (Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 which will provide payments to more than 130 million American households)
  • Tax-filing services that file the return on behalf of the consumer but use different routing numbers to ensure that the refund never makes it to the consumer’s bank account.

Consumers should remember: the IRS does not use e-mail to initiate contact with taxpayers about issues related to their accounts. If a taxpayer has any doubt whether a contact from the IRS is authentic, the taxpayer should call the IRS customer service toll-free number (1-800-829-1040) to confirm it.


Stephen was worried about the money he owed the IRS. He contacted a company that assured him he would be work with tax attorneys who would settle his debt. Stephen sent them his personal information and tax returns from previous years. One week later, the company said they couldn’t help Stephen, but wished him “luck”. When Stephen asked for a refund for the $9,500 fee he paid via credit card, the company hung up on him.  Stephen reported the scam to NCL’s Fraud Center, and is working with an attorney in hopes of recovering the money he lost.


Pattie responded to a tax refund company’s advertisement – receive a tax refund directly deposited into one’s bank account within 8-11 days for only $99!  She provided her routing number when filling out the paperwork. The company told her that there was a delay but that her direct deposit was being processed. After following up with her bank, Pattie learned that the company had rerouted her deposit into their account – leaving her without a refund and helpless.


About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit

Tax Time = Scam Time – National Consumers League

April 15 is a date that is on many of our minds this time of year, and the clock is ticking.

It’s no news that scammers work year-round. But now, more than ever, NCL’s Fraud Center is finding that con artists are going after consumers through tax refund and rebate scams. So, this year, not only do consumers need to rush to get their taxes filed on time, but they need to watch out for scams as well.

NCL’s Fraud Center has been tracking the scam since April 2005, and we’ve found that most of the set-ups consumers report are variations of phishing scams. It’s happening via both phone and email, and there are several pitches, ranging from claims of “tax relief” services to help speeding up refunds.

There are a bunch of different variations of the scam, but one victim’s story stands out in particular:

Stephen was worried about the money he owed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and he was contacted by a company that assured him they would settle his debt. He sent his personal information and tax returns from previous years to the “tax attorneys.” He used his credit card to pay the $9,500 the company told him he owed. One week later the company said that they could not help Stephen. When he asked for his money back, they wished him “luck” and hung up on him!

Stephen is not alone, but there is some good news: many of the complaints we’re getting are from consumers who were savvy enough to recognize the pitch as a scam, and many aren’t falling for it!

Now that millions of consumers are expecting to receive their Economic Stimulus check in the coming months, our fraud counselors are concerned that more consumers will be duped by scammers, so we’re reminding consumers that the IRS does NOT use email to initiate contact with taxpayers about issues related to their accounts.

Bad Economy Blurring Your Judgment? – National Consumers League

Budget cuts. Credit crunch. Foreclosures galore.

The cost of daily necessities such as food and gas continue to rise, and the status of our economy is bleak. In a panic, a slightly questionable opportunity to make some quick cash may seem even more appealing.

But NCL is reminding consumers this month to carefully evaluate offers to work from the comfort of home. Be cautious about emails offering work-at-home opportunities.

Just because the company places an ad for a job in a reputable paper, Web site or magazine does not make the offer legitimate. Don’t get involved in work that requires depositing a check in your bank account and them wiring them money — that’s a fake check scam!

Report suspected work-at-home scams or any other telemarketing and Internet scams to NCL’s Fraud Center.

Sunshine in Litigation Act Gets Boost in Senate – National Consumers League

Three cheers for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approved what the New York Times called in a March 12 editorial “a modest but potentially life-saving bill” known as the Sunshine in Litigation Act, a piece of legislation that would require judges in federal courts to take into account public interest before granting a request for secrecy. In a letter NCL sent, along with Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Government Accountability Project, and U.S. PIRG, to the Honorable Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, we argued our support for the act and encouraged senators to see to it that it’s passed quickly.

The issue is this: when companies are in the middle of a product liability case, they often demand, as a stipulation of their settlement, that individuals involved must agree to terms that will prevent them from disclosing any public safety hazards that may have been uncovered during litigation. This is a totally anti-consumer practice: allowing the sealing of all litigation records, especially when they involve matters that affect public health and safety, endangers consumers and encourages corporate wrongdoing.

The new act preserves a company’s rights to protect important “trade secrets,” so this should be a new rule all parties can live with. We’ll continue to follow this bill as it makes its way through the legislative process. You go, Judiciary Committee! Next up: Senate Floor.

Remembering Howard Metzenbaum (1917-2008) – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

The National Consumers League and its allies in the consumer advocacy world lost a friend and icon last week: U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH), who supported the work of the Child Labor Coalition as a Senate Advisor. Metzenbaum championed the rights of consumers and workers in Congress and was beloved by consumer and labor leaders alike. For example, to protect workers from the disruption of plant closings and loss of jobs, Metzenbaum authored a law requiring 60 days’ notice before a company could shut down a plant.

Metz, as he was called, never shied away from a fight – often infuriating the conservatives in Congress. And when he retired from the Senate, he agreed to serve as Chairman of the Consumer Federation of America. Lucky CFA! I would be hard-pressed to name another Senator whose name is so synonymous with consumer rights and protections. For Metzenbaum, there were no sacred cows – he went after big oil, the insurance and pharmaceutical industry, banks, in his nearly twenty years of service. He also championed the campaign for universal health insurance, an issue with as much (perhaps more) urgency today as it had back in the 1980s.

During my decade with Consumers Union, I worked with many former Metzenbaum staffers and the Senator himself. He reviewed the resumes of applicants for CU’s Esther Peterson Public Interest Fellowship, and I worked on vetting aspiring consumer advocates for that program. They share common traits that I see in many consumer colleagues: indefatigable advocacy for consumer issues in Congress and in the federal agencies and an unwillingness to take “no” for an answer when consumer rights and protections are at stake, even when the deck is stacked against them.

Senator Howard Metzenbaum, vocal and fearless consumer advocates in Congress are a rare breed and we will miss you.

Great Youth Educational Resource: – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

I had the opportunity to travel up to New York City last Friday with NCL Board member Sam Simon to attend the unveiling of the Verizon Foundation’s new educational Web site. The event was part of the New York’s public television station’s (WNET) Celebration of Teaching and Learning conference. And what better way to spend the last day of National Consumer Protection Week than celebrating our friend and avid LifeSmarts’ partners’ own initiative aimed at K-12 graders.

Here I am (in the photo on the right), between our hosts: Kathy Brown, Senior Vice President, Public Policy Development and Corporate Social Responsibility and Patrick Gaston, President of the Verizon Foundation. The conference featured luminaries such as ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, and NBC News anchor and correspondent, Ann Curry. The press conference highlighted an enhanced – the Verizon Foundation’s free, comprehensive program and online portal to 55,000 educational and literacy resources for teachers, parents and students. The site features lesson plans and interactive activities, and the ability for users to search for resources tailored to individual state standards. Sam and I were impressed by the many resources offered to students and teachers by the site. The National Consumers League shares Verizon Foundation’s commitment to educating young consumers through groundbreaking new technologies and looks forward to our continued work with the Foundation. The site offers valuable content for students and teachers alike, and we encourage everyone to check it out.

Purple: The New Green? – National Consumers League

Today we learned that the 5 dollar bill is the first to get a makeover by the Federal Reserve in attempts to thwart counterfeiters. Honest Abe is still the bill’s main attraction, but he’s surrounded by some new security features that will make faking it more difficult, including new watermarks and changes to that little security “thread” that’s woven into the bill.

More obvious than these differences, perhaps, are the numerous splashes of purple across the bill. But the color changes aren’t for security reasons – they’re meant to help people with visual impairments have an easier time using the money.

According to an LA Times article, we should start seeing these new bills pretty quickly, as more than 200 million of them will be released in the next three weeks!

Game On! – National Consumers League

NCL’s staff is working away to prepare for our annual LifeSmarts National Championship this year from April 12-15. This year, we’re heading to Minneapolis, MN, LifeSmarts Program Director, Lisa Hertzberg’s hometown! The League runs the LifeSmarts program, which tests thousands of middle school and high school students nationwide on real-life consumer issues through online quizzes and live contests.

High school state champs from across the nation will show off their consumer smarts on personal finance, health and safety, environment, technology and consumer rights and responsibilities April 12-15 as they compete for the national title.

Here’s a peek into the fun:

Saturday, April 12
Teams from across the nation check-in at the hotel, go through orientation, where they get their first glimpse of the competition, and are briefed on the rules. Later that evening, the teams get to let loose at the mixer.

Sunday, April 13
Competition begins. Months of studying and honing their skills through online and in-person come in handy.

Monday, April 14
The competition heats up! Teams compete until only four teams are standing. Later in the day, the teams take a break from competing and take in the local scene on a fun outing.

Tuesday, April 15
The competition comes down to the quarterfinals and semifinals, until the only team standing is named the 2008 LifeSmarts National Champion! The champion team receives its prizes at the Awards Banquet.

We wanted to send a huge thank you to our sponsors, state coordinators, coaches and volunteers who make the LifeSmarts program all that it is! Check out the news coverage the teams have received so far, and be sure to visit to cheer on the teams during Nationals!