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County of Sonoma California
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Do You Have Questions About Whether Your Car Repair Was Done Right After an Accident?

Posted March 16, 2017

The Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) will provide a FREE inspection to determine if the work done on your automobile was done correctly and if it matches the work shown on the invoice.

If BAR inspectors find no discrepancies they will just document the results. If there is a problem they will help get the shop to correct the work.

To schedule an appointment call BAR's toll free number at (866) 799-3811. BAR also takes complaints regarding other issues with automotive repair facilities. For more information see: https://thedcapage.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/was-your-car-repaired-after-an-accident-was-it-done-right/. If BAR believes criminal activity is involved, such as fraud, they will refer the case to the local district attorney's office.

Tech Support Scam

Posted February 21, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission advises that a company it previously shut down has resurfaced using the name “Global Connect”.  Consumers received a pop up on their computer claiming there is a problem with the computer that does not exist. The consumer is then requested to allow remote access to their computer to either reestablish service or process a refund into the person’s account.

Do not allow anyone who calls you to access your computer.  Report any such activity to the FTC at www.consumer.ftc.gov.

“Can You Hear Me?”

Posted February 21, 2017

An old scam has resurfaced which been reported to the Better Business Bureau. Consumers report that they receive calls about vacation packages, warranties or other items.  The person asks “Can you hear me?”  The goal is to get the consumer to say “Yes”.  The information is recorded and edited to make it sound like you agreed to a major purchase.

Do not answer calls where you do not recognize the phone number.  If you receive a call where person is asking if you can hear them, just hang up.  Register for the DO NOT CALL LIST if you have not already done so at www.donotcall.gov to cut down the number of calls although this may not stop scammers.  Check your bank account and credit card statements regularly for unauthorized charges.

Report any suspicious calls to the Better Business Bureau or the FTC to help protect others.

“You Have Reached Your Storage Limit”

Posted February 21, 2017

Reports have been received that an email is being sent to look like it comes from your office IT department indicating that an update is required in order to add storage to your computer.  The emails often have information in the subject line name@ company.com update required.  The message indicates you will be blocked from sending or receiving emails and instructs you to click to a link which appears to look like your email.  The link requests you to enter your email address and password.  This is a way to obtain your password and opens you up to identity theft.

If you receive such emails, check first with your company IT dept.  Be cautious about generic emails, even if they appear real.  Do not click on links or open files in unfamiliar emails.  They may include viruses or phishing software to obtain your passwords and security information.

Quick Books Phishing Scam

Posted February 2, 2017

The Better Business Bureau reports that a new phishing scam has been reported that is targeting small businesses. An email is sent with the subject line “QuickBooks Support: Change Request”. The message says it is confirming that you have changed your business name with Intuit, the manufacturer of QuickBooks. The email contains a link to cancel which most businesses would use since they had not made the request. The link is bait to allow malware to download to your computer which will allow scammers to capture passwords or hunt for sensitive information which can lead to identity theft.

Do Not Click On Links in unsolicited emails. For more information about phishing scams and how to protect yourself see the FTC website at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0003-phishing

On line Rental Scam

Posted January 19, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission reports fake online rentals are being posted to lure people to Credit Bureau Center LLC, credit monitoring site. Rentals are posted and when the owner is contacted he says that you need a credit report and refers you to their site which says you get a free credit report but the fine print says that you are enrolling in a credit monitoring service and charged $24.94 per month unless you cancel within 7 days. The FTC offers the following tips to avoid rental scams:

  • Don’t wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee or first month’s rent.
  • Don’t pay before you sign a lease. Before paying, visit the apartment or house.
  • Get a truly free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com

Additional information on rental scams is available on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Disaster Repairs

Posted January 19, 2017

Be cautious of persons hired to perform repairs or cleanup. Unfortunately scam artists take advantage of the damage caused by floods, mud slides and other water related problems to take money and not perform the work. The Contractor’s License Board (CSLB) is advising homeowners to be cautious. Check the contractor’s license number online at www.cslb.ca.gov. Other tips offered by the CSLB to avoid scams:

  • Get at least three bids
  • Make sure all project expectations are in writing and sign the contract only if you completely understand the terms. Never sign a blank contract!
  • Confirm that the contractor has workers compensation insurance for its employees.
  • Never pay more that 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less. Don’t pay in cash.
  • Don’t let payments get ahead of the work.
  • Don’t make final payment until you are satisfied with the work.
  • Your contractor must notify you of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract.

E-Z Pass Phishing Scam

Posted January 19, 2017

Bay Area Fast Trak is reporting that an email phishing scam is sending out fake emails advising customers that they have not paid a road or bridge toll with a link to download the invoice. Opening the invoice may cause a virus or allow access to your personal computer information. Do not open or respond to such messages. If you have questions about the validity of any message received from E-Z Pass, contact the E-Z Pass Customer Service Center at 1-877-BAY TOLL.

YAHOO Customer Service Scam

Posted January 14, 2017

The FTC advises that it has received reports from consumers of fake phone numbers for “Yahoo customer service”. These fake numbers may appear in an internet search but are not legitimate numbers. When consumers contacted the number they were offered “customer care services” for a fee. Yahoo does not charge a fee for its customer services and does not have a customer service phone number. Yahoo also will not ask to remotely connect to your computer for any support related request.

To read more about Tech Support scams see the FTC website at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0346-tech-support-scams

Watch out for Fake Retail Apps

Posted December 19, 2016

The Better Business Bureau and the New York Times have reported that scammers are fooling holiday shoppers my creating fake apps which show up in Apple and Android app stores and look like many of your favorite retailers. The apps require shoppers to enter Facebook information or credit card information which can open users up to fraud.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:

Scammers love to impersonate popular apps. Here´s how to spot a con:

  • Evaluate before downloading. In the app store, look for warning signs such as apps with no reviews and no history of previous versions.
  • Look out for poor grammar. Most fake apps are developed with little or no quality control. Look for poor grammar, typos, and strange sentences or phrases within the app title, description, or instructions.
  • Make sure the retailor has an app. Not all retailors have apps, which makes it easier for scammers to pass off fake ones. When in doubt, do a quick search online before downloading.

See the New York Times Article

10 Things you can do to avoid fraud

The Federal Trade Commission publishes a list of 10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud. This is an excellent resource that provides helpful tips. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-things-you-can-do-avoid-fraud

False complaints from consumer affairs department and office of the attorney general

Posted December 6, 2016

Be careful not to open emails or click links which appear to be from the Consumer Affairs Department or the Office of the State Attorney General advising you that a complaint has been filed against your business. The suspicious emails have an “outlook.com” in their email address which is a clear indication it is not from one of the government agencies. These are “phishing” emails which seek to obtain sensitive information from your computer or infect your computer with a virus.

Phishing is a form of fraud in which the attacker tries to learn information such as login credentials or account information by masquerading as a reputable entity or person in email, IM or other communication channels. Attackers try to appear trustworthy by sending email from an address that looks reputable. Typically, a victim receives a message that appears to have been sent by a known contact or organization. An attachment or links in the message may install malware on the user’s device or direct them to a malicious website set up to trick them into divulging personal and financial information, such as passwords, account IDs or credit card details.

Recommendations:

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, text messages, and phone callers. Use discretion when providing information to unsolicited phone callers, and never provide sensitive personal information via email.
  • If you want to verify a suspicious email, contact the organization directly with a known phone number. Do not call the number provided in the email. Or, have the company send you something through the US mail (which scammers won’t do).
  • Only open an email attachment if you are expecting it and know what it contains. Be cautious about container files, such as .zip files, as malicious content could be packed inside.
  • Visit websites by typing the address into the address bar. Do not follow links embedded in an unsolicited email.
  • Use discretion when posting personal information on social media. This information is a treasure-trove to spear phishers who will use it to feign trustworthiness.
  • Keep all of your software patched and up-to-date. Home users should have the auto update feature enabled.
  • Keep your antivirus software up-to-date to detect and disable malicious programs, such as spyware or backdoor Trojans, which may be included in phishing emails.

New IRS Tax Scam

The IRS has reported that there is a new IRS imposter scam. The IRS imposters send a fake tax notice that claims monies are owed from a prior tax year as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The form looks similar to an actual form used by the IRS.

The IRS advises to be aware of the following red-flags to help you avoid becoming a victim:

  1. The IRS does not initiate contact with you by email or through social media
  2. The IRS does not ask you to pay using a gift card, pre-paid debit card or wire transfer
  3. The IRS does not request personal or financial information by email, texts, or social media
  4. The IRS does not threaten to immediately have you arrested or deported for not paying.
See detailed information at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/irs-warns-new-tax-bill-scam

Fictious business name renewal scam

If you receive an official looking letter from the Fictitious Business Renewal Center urging you to renew your fictious business name for your business, be aware that this is a scam. This is a private company that charges a fee of $150 to process a fictious business name renewal statement and has no connection to the County.

Business owners can deal directly with the County Clerk’s Office when filing. Customers have two options when filing a Fictitious Business Name Statement. With either option, the cost of filing a Fictitious Business Name Statement is $40 for the first business name and the first owner name. Each additional name is $9. Forms are available in with the County Clerk’s office or online at http://www.sonoma-county.org/clerk/forms.htm.

IRS Scam

If you receive a phone call from someone purporting to be an agent with the IRS threatening that a lawsuit will be filed unless payment is made—often through an ITunes gift card, wiring money or other means be aware that this is a scam. The IRS does not call taxpayers in this manner or request payment in the form of gift cards.

Sheriff reports jury service telephone scam

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department has received at least 20 complaints that a person posing as Lieutenant Vance Berry from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has been telephoning residents stating they had missed jury duty. The suspect advises that the resident must pay money to avoid an arrest warrant. The County has no such person in the sheriff’s office. In addition, law enforcement will not call you to advise that you have a warrant. IF you received such a call, hang up and report to the Sheriff’s office. https://local.nixle.com/alert/5711940/

Fake ‘referendum’ scam targets seniors

If you receive a letter in mail which appears to be from a non-profit group claiming that Congress is attempting to abolish Social Security and asking for a donation of $16.45 or some other amount to help get a referendum ballot to all seniors—be aware that this is a scam. Do not give your credit card information to such groups or you may find yourself a victim of identity theft. See article at http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2016/09/bamboozled_group_accused_of_nationwide_scams_targe.html

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