WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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State officials warn of tax and foreclosure prevention scams

It’s definitely tax time and there seems to be no small number of businesses offering “free help” in assisting beleaguered taxpayers, especially for those with home foreclosure hanging over their heads. The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services is urging Oregon residents not to fall for such scams that go on every day in this state.

Under Oregon law, those offering help in tax preparation, debt management, 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.

“Especially this time of year, consumers are being offered free or reduced cost tax preparation assistance, but Oregon residents should always obtain information about tax questions from the IRS or by consulting a licensed tax preparer,” according to a state news release.

“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 by clicking here or by calling the department toll-free at 1-866-814-9710. The site also answers frequently asked questions 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 by clicking here.

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