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No, that’s not the IRS texting about a tax refund or rebate; it’s a scam

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irs scams v4 en 03

By Gema de las Heras
Consumer Education Specialist

IRS impersonators have been around for a while. But as more people get to know their tricks, they’re switching it up. So instead of contacting you about a tax debt and making threats to get you to pay up, scammers may send you a text about a “tax rebate” or some other tax refund or benefit. Here’s what to know about the new twist.

The text messages may look legit and mention a “tax rebate” or “refund payment.” But no matter what the text says, it’s a scammer phishing for your information. And if you click on the link to claim “your refund,” you’re exposing yourself to identity theft or malware that the scammer could install on your phone.

If someone contacts you about a tax rebate or refund:

Never click on links in unexpected texts. Don’t share personal information with anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Always use a website or phone number you know is real.

Know that the IRS won’t call, email or text to contact you for the first time. They’ll always start by sending you a letter. If you want to confirm, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

Find the status of any pending refund on the IRS official website. Visit Where’s My Refund.

Report unsolicited texts or emails claiming to be the IRS. Forward a screenshot or the email as an attachment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you clicked a link in one of these text or emails and shared personal information, file a report at IdentityTheft.gov to get a customized recovery plan based on what information you shared.

Even if you didn’t lose money to an IRS impersonator scams, tell us about it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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BBB reports retail fraud losses nearing $380 million in 2022

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FraudLoss Stock

BEAUMONT – It’s holiday shopping season and many consumers are searching online and social media for the perfect gifts. While shopping online is easy and convenient, Better Business Bureau® (BBB®) warns online shoppers searching for gifts and other merchandise to do their research, be mindful of social media scrolling, and use credit cards to avoid scammers.

The warning is an update to BBB’s in-depth study, Theft on a Massive Scale: Online Shopping Fraud and the Role of Social Media, issued last December.

Online shopping scam reports to BBB Scam Tracker remain just under all-time highs reached in 2021 with losses approaching $380 million. According to an October BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust report, scams being perpetrated online have risen 87% since BBB Scam Tracker launched in 2015.

Of those reports, a vast majority of consumers lost money, making online shopping fraud one of the most dangerous and successful, according to the BBB Institute’s research.

In many cases reported to BBB’s Scam Tracker, the scammers entice shoppers with hard-to-find items, low prices, and fast delivery. According to BBB SETX CEO Liz Fredrichs “Nearly 24% of all online retail fraud reports to BBB Scam Tracker in our area originated through a fake website.”  On a national level, BBB reports scammers used social media and email to initiate about 40% of reported scams.

Fraudsters found the shift to online shopping to be lucrative and convenient, molding their efforts into various forms meant to trick shoppers. Items consumers receive may be completely different or worthless when compared to those advertised.

Complaints filed with BBB on the types of businesses that comprise online shopping were 16% lower in 2021 with the peak of 115,159 in 2020 and appear on pace in 2022 to equal or exceed 2021 complaints.

Scammers target three key moments in the shopping process, according to BBB Scam Tracker:

Before the purchase, consumers may encounter advertisements for scams on social media.

While shopping, shoppers may be enticed by artificially low prices or fake websites.

After the purchase, fraudsters send fake tracking information and request more money for safe delivery.

These scams have three top warning signs in common:

Prices that are too good to be true

Websites that look legitimate, but credibility falls apart after a closer look,

Credit card payment failures lead the seller to ask for payment over peer-to-peer payment apps or with gift cards.

Fraudsters use a variety of methods to collect money, including credit cards, money transfer services (Venmo, Zelle, PayPal) and gift cards. PayPal is the only cash-sharing app that offers some protections for consumers, though reports to BBB show mixed success in obtaining refunds. BBB recommends consumers pay with a credit card when possible, as those companies have strong procedures in place for disputing fraudulent transactions.

  BBB recommendations for researching online retail sellers:

• Check BBB.org for BBB Business Profiles and consumer reviews.

• Search for online reviews.

• Review the website’s URL for misspellings or other errors.

• Examine the URL with Google’s Transparency Report tool.

• Use a map app to verify the business’s address.

• Make sure you can pay by credit card, which offers the most protection against loss.

• Treat a social media or email ad with suspicion until you have investigated the company behind it.

Who to contact if you are the victim of an online purchase scam:

Better Business Bureau – BBB Scam Tracker to report a scam online.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – reportfraud.ftc.gov to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help.

Canadian Antifraud Centre – Online or call 1-888-495-8501 for scams involving Canada.

Your credit card issuer – report the incident if you shared your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed. Monitor your statements and if you suspect fraud, ask for a chargeback. It isn’t guaranteed, but many credit card companies will grant one.

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DETCOG director hailed as trailblazer

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Lonnie HuntLonnie HuntBy Chris Edwards
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AUSTIN – Throughout his career in public life, Crockett’s Lonnie Hunt has worn many hats: from radio broadcaster to Houston County Judge, and (since 2016), Executive Director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG). There’s another title he was recently bestowed: “Texas Broadband Hero.”

Hunt was honored at an event, hosted by the Texas Tribune, last week, and presented with the “Texas Broadband Hero Award” from Connected Nation Texas.

In a news release from CN Texas, the organization stated it is honored to present Hunt with the award and added that Hunt was recognized “for his many years as a vocal advocate for rural broadband in both his own community and the Deep East Texas Region as a whole.”

In his capacity with DETCOG, Hunt oversees the organization for a 12-county region, and through grant funding, has made rural broadband access a priority over the past several years.

“Wow! I’m blown away by this award,” said Hunt. “It’s special to me because I truly believe that broadband is a key building block for the future of my region and all rural Texas. It’s an honor to be able to work on this issue, and we can’t stop until every single household in Texas has access to affordable and reliable broadband.”

The event, which was titled “The Future of Rural Texas,” took place on Thursday, Nov. 17, and Chris Pedersen, who serves as Executive Vice President of Development and Planning for Connected Nation, said the award was created to honor someone “who demonstrates the passion, commitment, and determination to close the Digital Divide in their community in such a way that it influences and impacts surrounding communities and the region.”

“Lonnie Hunt exemplifies our core vision that everyone belongs in a Connected Nation, and he is committed to improving lives by bringing innovative solutions to expand the access, adoption, and use of broadband,” said Molly Weiner, Director, Local and Regional Planning for Connected Nation.

It was announced on Monday that the state will receive in excess of $600 million in federal broadband subsidies in the coming year. The Texas Public Policy Foundation issued a news release, and cited research pertaining to the rural areas of the state bearing the greatest need.

A study funded by DETCOG over the economic impact of broadband throughout the 12-county region of service, projected that over a 10-year period, broadband access can provide an enormous boost to the region, which is economically distressed.

“Having quick and reliable internet access has become more important for participating in modern society, and Texas is presented with a chance to realize broadband needs with clear goals and measurable outcomes,” said Zach Whiting, policy director for Better Tech for Tomorrow. “The Legislature should remain focused on the real needs facing Texans with no broadband access and see this as an opportunity to provide broadband expansion with longevity—rather than another sum of money that needs replenishment due to inefficient allocation.”

“Despite the natural beauty and other positive aspects of life in Deep East Texas, our region historically suffers from high poverty, high unemployment and low wages…Broadband is the key to changing that,” one part of the study reads.

The study goes on to show that broadband access in rural East Texas could add 10,300 new jobs and $1.4 billion in GDP growth to the region over a 10-year period.

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Recovering from the storm

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Caddo Mounds museum

It has taken a few years, but work is now progressing on the Caddo Mounds Museum located at the State historic site on Highway 21. The 397-acre Caddo Mounds site sustained severe damage several years ago when a devastating tornado destroyed many of the historic buildings, including grass huts and the museum, which housed replicas of many of the early Caddoan tribe relics.

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Old Mill Fest this weekend

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By Chris Edwards
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KENNARD – This weekend, The Old Mill Music Festival will celebrate its 11th year of bringing quality roots music to the area.

The annual festival kicks off Friday, Nov. 4 with music onstage from festival founders Lloyd and April Wright. Other acts slated for Friday include cult hero Country Willie Edwards; Rachel Eddy and the Vanderveer Brothers Stringband.

Saturday has even more music on-tap, with Rosebud kicking things off at 5 p.m. Master dulcimer player Stephen Seifert and the Hillsiders are also scheduled to play on the second day. 

Along with the scheduled music from the stage, there are plenty of workshops and jam opportunities for festival-goers. A shaped-note singing workshop will take place, along with several focusing on dulcimer and fiddle playing techniques.

Randall McKinnon will serve as the emcee for the festival.

The Old Mill Fest organizers promise that the old sawmill location “is the perfect backdrop for some good family fun.”

Food will be available for purchase all weekend, with food trucks on-site. 

The cost for the event (cash or check only) is: Friday $30 and $40 for Saturday. Festival-goers who are 16 and under get in free, and there is a $10 per day discount for military veterans. Attendees can also tent-camp on site for $10 each day.

The Old Mill Fest is located off of Highway 7 near Kennard. Look for the sign just west of Kennard. 

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