Thursday, March 26, 2020

WV Judicial Emergency for COVID-19, most proceedings and deadlines delayed

Our state courts, including magistrate, family, and circuit courts, are administered by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (WVSLA). Municipal courts operate independently.
In response to the COVID_19 pandemic the WVSCA has issued 2 orders and a plan document. You can access all these and future COVID-19 related court administration documents at http://www.courtswv.gov/covid19/COVID19.html.
Pursuant to those orders all civil and criminal proceedings in our state courts, except emergency proceedings and certain criminal proceedings, are currently stayed through 4/10/2020. All deadlines that fall between 3/23/2020 and 4/10/2020 are extended to 4/11/2020. All statutes of limitation that fall within those dates are extended to 4/11/2020. Statutes of limitation that do not expire between those dates ARE NOT extended.
Emergency proceedings include:
  • domestic violence
  • child abuse and neglect where there is imminent threat
  • infant guardianship
  • custody cases involving threat to cbild
  • juvenile detention/placement in state custody
Criminal proceedings necessary to ensure the right to a speedy trial are not subject to the stays.
Proceedings should continue utilize technology to limit physical contact when possible.
Note that eviction is not on the emergency civil proceedings list, so there should be no ordinary eviction proceedings at least through 4/10/2020.
If you are at least 60 and a West Virginia resident with a civil legal question or problem, or concerns about the status of our state courts you can call WV Senior Legal Aid at 1-800-229-5068 for help.






Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WV Senior Citizens Tax Credit process

NOTE: As of March 25, 2020, West Virginia’s personal income tax filing deadline is July 15, 2020.

When it’s tax time, everybody appreciates a little help, especially when tax credits are available. Each dollar of a credit eliminates a dollar of tax.

West Virginia’s Senior Citizens Tax Credit helps certain older residents pay lower income taxes, as does the Homestead Excess Property Tax Credit.

To claim either or both credits, a person does not have to itemize expenses on their return.

Both income tax credits are tied to owning residential property. The Homestead Exemption program reduces property taxes on owner-occupied property for those age 65 and older or disabled who sign up at their county assessor’s office for the exemption.

Under the state program, the first $20,000 of the home‘s assessed value is exempt, or non-taxable, for property tax purposes.

For annual income tax purposes, those who are eligible for the Senior Citizens Tax Credit receive Form SCTC-1 in the mail from the West Virginia State Tax Department each January.

The form lists the amount of the tax credit that can be claimed when preparing the West Virginia tax return. Be sure to save it for tax return preparation purposes.

There is also a low income requirement for Senior Citizens Tax Credit eligibility that is determined when calculating the numbers for the tax return.

Further, for those receiving the Homestead Exemption on their residential property taxes, there is the Homestead Excess Property Tax Credit to reduce income taxes.

When a person’s residential property taxes exceed 4% of their income, he or she may receive a state income tax credit for the excess amount. The maximum credit is $1000.

If a person is eligible for both of these state income tax credits, the amount of the Senior Citizens Tax Credit will reduce the amount of the Homestead Excess Property Tax Credit that can be claimed.

Neither of these state tax credits affect or reduce the federal taxes owed.

More information is available on the https://tax.wv.gov/Individuals/SeniorCitizens/Pages/SeniorCitizensTaxCredit.aspx page.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Checks from the government, here come the scammers!

We hear the government is planning to send out money to everyone. The details are still being worked out, there's not much known about how.

But one thing we know for certain: scammers want your money. They will creatively try many ways to get that money from you, perhaps before you even get it.

Here are a few important things to remember as we await the details of our government cash:

1. The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.

2. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer

3. These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The 2020 census will tell us many things about the United States and its population.

Participating in the census is very important for West Virginians because of how multiple federal benefits are allocated and controlled.

Many federal programs focus on funding for those with low income or living in rural areas. Under-counting would also mean under-funding.

A George Washington University study revealed that West Virginia relies the most of any U. S. state on federal money that is guided through census results.

On both state and local government levels, federal funding is crucial, making accurate census results just as crucial.

Currently, information is being collected online, through phone calls from legitimate census takers and by mail. To expedite the process, the online process is the easiest.

The Federal Trade Commission wants everyone to be aware that fraudulent schemes to get an individual’s personal information are occurring, using the false pretense that the person is calling on behalf of the federal census.

If fraud is suspected in any contact that is census-related, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a representative at the nearest Census Bureau or go online to FTC.gov/Complaint to file a complaint.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Money Mule Scams

Friday, February 14, 2020

Black History Month's Honoree - Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

As a young child growing up in Piedmont, West Virginia, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. did not know that someday he would help America celebrate its roots.

In observance of Black History Month, we salute Dr. Gates and applaud his PBS program “Finding Your Roots.”

Now a Harvard University African-American Studies professor, Dr. Gates has increased focus on America’s immigrant journeys through the family trees of celebrities, journalists, political leaders, scientists and other accomplished individuals of varied ethnic backgrounds.

With numerous African-American guests, he has illustrated the impact of “disappeared” relatives—those slaves who were never listed by name in any records. Others have discovered that they were descendants of free people of color.

In contrast, other guests have learned that their ancestors five or six generations back were slave owners.

In recognition of his ground-breaking work, Dr. Gates has received honorary degrees or awards from 53 universities, including West Virginia University. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellow “genius grant” and other prestigious accolades for his efforts as author, documentary filmmaker, essayist, literary critic and professor.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Black History and the Court System, free lecture 3p 2/8/20 at Culture Center in Charleston WV

The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs sponsors a monthlong series of events. The lecture “Black History and the Court System” will be presented Saturday, Feb. 8, at 3 p.m. in the Culture Center, Archives Library. The speaker will be Charleston-born attorney Olubunmi “Bunmi” Kusimo-Frazier.

The event is free and open to the public.

The discourse will explore how the American court system has factored into the lives of African Americans. The lecture is part of a series of events sponsored by Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs (HHOMA) to recognize Black History Month.

“We are excited to bring back our popular Black History Month Lecture Series for a second year,” said Jill Upson, executive director of HHOMA. “We encourage everyone to RSVP at 304-356-2023 because seating for this event may fill up quickly.”

Kusimo-Frazier serves as the director of Magistrate Services at West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. She oversees more than 400 employees and the operations of the 55 magistrate courts in the state of West Virginia.

She studied at the historically black Florida A&M University and graduated magna cum laude. She holds a juris doctor from Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia.

After graduating from law school, Kusimo-Frazier returned to Charleston to work as an assistant prosecuting attorney and as a criminal defense lawyer for a private firm. As a criminal defense attorney, she represented numerous clients in federal, state, and municipal courts, and was named one of the "Top 40 under 40" by the National Trial Lawyers Association. She also worked as a deputy counsel for the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, which operates within the Office of Governor Jim Justice, is committed to assisting all underserved citizens across West Virginia and developing innovative ways to address issues affecting minority populations through conversation, education, leadership, and collaboration. For more information, visit their Facebook page at @WVHHOMA, website at minorityaffairs.wv.gov, or call their office at 304-356-2023.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Do you need a REAL ID?

It’s gold star time -- beginning October 1, 2020, West Virginians will need to have a gold star on their driver’s license to go through airport security for a commercial airline flight.
The gold star converts your driver’s license into what is called a REAL ID for certain federal purposes. The alternatives of a passport, federal government PIV card, or military ID will work for the same purpose.
A REAL ID will also be needed to go through security in certain federal facilities/buildings, military bases, or nuclear power plants as of October 1.
There are exceptions where the REAL ID is not needed, such as Social Security, Veterans Administration and post offices, and National Parks. Some other federal facilities do not require identification to enter.
When a driver’s license needs to be renewed, West Virginians have the choice of a REAL ID or the standard type of driver’s license which will not be usable for identification after October 1 for flights, entering federal or military facilities, etc.
The REAL ID costs an additional $10 and also requires two documents, such as current utility bills, to show proof of West Virginia residency (the non-federal version requires only one). Further, either type of license also requires proof of identity (through a birth certificate or passport) and proof of your Social Security number.
Although these are state requirements, the overall program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and is intended to make it more difficult for terrorists to acquire and use fraudulent identification.
Online information on the REAL ID requirements is available at https://transportation.wv.gov/DMV/Drivers/Pages/Drivers-Licenses.aspx.






Tuesday, January 07, 2020

WV Legislative Session begins 1/8/2020

Our state legislature meets for its 2 month regular session starting Wednesday January 8, 2020. That night Governor Jim Justice will deliver his 4th State of the State address You can watch and listen live on West Virginia Public Broadcasting tv and radio stations, the legislature's internet live stream, the Governor's YouTube channel , and the Governor's Facebook page.

Monday, January 06, 2020

12 Days of Scams Day 12: Never Surrender!

Are Americans becoming scam-weary?

If so, that can actually make it much easier for the scammers.

So staying vigilant and remembering that if something comes your way that sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam.

The top tips from the Federal Trade Commission on how to avoid being the next victim are available at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-things-you-can-do-avoid-fraud.

To stay current on scams, the FTC provides a service that sends alerts to you via ftc.gov/scams. Also, AARP has a series of podcasts on scams that hit seniors at https://www.aarp.org/podcasts/the-perfect-scam/.

12 Days of Scams Day 11: I Am the H.A.L. 9000, You May Call Me Hal.

What are robocalls?

They are computerized calls that can be the least costly way to scam the unwary.

If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission at https://donotcall.gov/.

Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That actually often tells the scammer’s computer to call you again.

There are ways to block various kinds of unwanted calls, depending on whether you are using a landline, mobile phone, VOIP. Learn more about how fro the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-block-unwanted-calls

Friday, January 03, 2020

12 Days of Scams Day 10: Mass Market Consumer Scams

Are we getting better at avoiding scams?

The Federal Trade Commission’s 2017 mass market consumer fraud survey report, at https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/mass-market-consumer-fraud-united-states-2017-update/p105502massmarketconsumerfraud2017report.pdf, found that 40 million U. S.adults were victims of various kinds of such fraud that year. That’s almost 16% of the adult population.

These surveys are done periodically, and the scams with attendant losses are increasing. Some even became double victims of scams since almost 62 million scam efforts were reported as successful.

Of the victims in the 2017 survey, 62% purchased fraudulent products via the internet. Always checking for the security lock on the line with the website address is a way to lower the effectiveness of the scam.

Fraudulent weight loss products and computer repairs were the top areas for scams. The fake weight loss products also had the most repeat victims.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

12 Days of Scams Day 9: Heartbreaking Romance Scams

Romance in the air -- and on the internet. But so are the scams.

Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission about romance scams have risen significantly in recent years, as have the financial losses associated with them.

Learn more about the $143 million in reported losses during 2018 from such scams at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/02/new-ftc-data-spotlight-details-big-jump-losses-complaints-about?utm_source=govdelivery

Those victims age 70 and over reported losing the most -- a median loss of $10,000. Ouch!

The scammers were able to make the victim feel important and were often viewed as the most compassionate and helpful person in their life. But the scammer also needed help with rent, car repairs, medical emergencies, transportation or family situations and didn’t hesitate to ask the victim for help.

As the victims learn, the scammers were not who they said they were. They use other people’s photos and fake identities. And they can pocket around $10,000 per older victim. That’s not romantic!

Monday, December 30, 2019

12 Days of Scams Day 8: Reporting scams can make a difference

The British Museum contains the world’s oldest documented consumer complaint: a 3,800-year-old Babylonian tablet from the ancient Sumerian city-state of Ur in Mesopotamia — now known as Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq. The clay tablet recorded the complaint of an unsatisfied copper ore customer written to his supplier.

Sad to say, 6,000 years of crooks robbing others hasn’t helped us all avoid being taken to the cleaners.

Many feel after suffering financial loss from a scam that they can’t do anything.

But reporting the scam to the Federal Trade Commission could lead to a prosecution of the scammer and refunds to the victims. Debt management, credit counseling, health care frauds, revenge porn, work-at-home plans, diet products, business opportunities, vocational training, and third party debt collection are just some of the recent scams that were halted and refunds to victims made, as discussed in Appendix A at https://www.ftc.gov/reports/2018-annual-report-refunds-consumers?utm_source=govdelivery.

But watch out for the scammers who can swoop in and scam victims a second time during the refund prosecution process -- https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/10/ftc-refunds-real-deal-or-not?utm_source=govdelivery

For those who want to make such a complaint, https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1 is the place to start. There are seven categories to choose from to help stop the crooks!

Friday, December 27, 2019

12 Days of Scams Day 7: Scammers International

We may think that fraudulent scams mostly originate in American “boiler rooms,” as they are called. Instead, they are growing on the international scene. Many of the operations are thought to be funded by drug cartels.

The federal government has bigger and bigger problems to deal with these criminals operating in other countries.

Recently, two defendants operating from call centers in Costa Rica were convicted in federal court of posing as representatives of the Federal Trade Commission and Securities & Exchange Commission to defraud older Americans out of millions of dollars. The defendants told victims they had won substantial sweepstakes prizes but had to make up-front payments to collect them. The scam defrauded victims out of $10 million in total. The two defendants were sentenced to 25 and 20 years in prison respectively.

The Department of Justice has extradited four Peruvian residents to the United States, where they face charges of operating a large-scale extortion scheme from 2012 to 2015. The defendants are alleged to have run Peruvian call centers that contacted Spanish-speaking individuals living in the U.S. to threaten them into paying fraudulent settlements or nonexistent debts.

These prosecutions, discussed at https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USFTC/bulletins/246ccf0, illustrate just how much money there is in fraudulent schemes, whether they originate in China or India or elsewhere.

Unfortunately most international telephone fraudsters like these never get caught or prosecuted. Most victims of these kinds of scams never get their money back. Since prevention is our best hope, sharing warnings about such scams with your friends and family might be a truly valuable holiday gift.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

12 Days of Scams Day 6: Free Medical Alert Scams

Showing just how heartless scammers are, elderly consumers have recently been bombarded with over a billion unsolicited robocalls to pitch supposedly “free” medical alert systems. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/06/ftc-law-enforcement-partners-announce-new-crackdown-illegal?utm_source=govdelivery

The calls were often made to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry and typically “spoofed” caller ID information so that the consumer thought they were dealing with a local company.

The internet even contains scripts for such calls, so anyone can start such a scam.

Some scammers used pre-recorded messages, which were meant to sound like a live person, that falsely told consumers that a $400 medical alert system had been purchased for them, and they could receive it “at no cost whatsoever.” However, telemarketers would not answer questions about who bought the system for them.

Many messages claimed falsely that their medical alert system had been endorsed or recommended by reputable organizations like the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, National Institute on Aging, or the AARP.

The callers also told consumers they would not be charged any monitoring fee on the device until they activated the system, even though their credit or debit cards were charged immediately. The consumers were also often falsely reassured that they could cancel their service at any time.

When an unsolicited caller tells you that something will be free, don’t believe it. It definitely won’t be! Comparing prices and purchasing something you need at your own pace is not what the scammers had in mind, so outsmart them!

Monday, December 23, 2019

12 Days of Scams Day 5:. Credit Card Interest Rate Reduction scam

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission filed a case in Florida federal court against three individuals who had set up a maze of interrelated operations that used illegal robocalls to contact financially distressed consumers, many of whom were seniors, across the nation with offers of bogus credit card interest rate reduction services.

They were told that, for a fee, they could lower their credit card interest rates to zero for the life of the debt to save them thousands of dollars on their credit card debt. Too good to be true? Definitely!

Using the ploy of confirming consumers’ identities, many were tricked into providing their personal financial information, including their Social Security and credit card numbers.

If consumers did not buy the services, some later found out that fraudulent credit cards had been applied for without their knowledge or consent. Those consumers were able to do that through checking their free annual credit report at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

When it’s too good to be true, hang up fast!

Friday, December 20, 2019

12 Days of Scams Day 4: Government imposter scams

Many of the federal government’s consumer protection efforts are handled by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC reports that scammers pretending to be from the federal government reached the highest levels on record in spring 2019, and this is the most commonly reported fraud the FTC deals with..

Consumers were contacted by phone or email by someone falsely claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, or another government entity.

These scammers may tell people that their Social Security number has been suspended, which does not happen, or that they are facing arrest because they owe back taxes and demand payment from the consumer to avoid getting into trouble. Often, they demand that a consumer pay with a gift card -- which is a dead giveaway that the consumer is dealing with a scammer.

This scam doesn’t actually work all that well any more, but it does haul in victims of all ages. The scammers are willing to use a high volume of computerized calls or emails just to haul in a few gullible folks. Watch out for it! More information is available at https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USFTC/bulletins/253a8d4.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

12 Days of Scams Day 3: A new twist on the old grandparent scam

“Grandma, something bad has happened, and I need your help right now!” is often the start of a scam phone call. No grandchild’s name is included for her to identify, so Grandma often fills in the blanks, “Tommy, is that you?” (If Grandpa answers, the spiel quickly switches to a plea to him.)

The reason for the emergency assistance will often be sketchy and playing on emotions is also how it works. It is frequently “I am in jail” or “I was in a car accident.” The scammer often requests that Grandma not notify the parents, playing on her loyalty. “What more natural alliance is there than that between a grandparent and grandchild?” says AARP WV President Rich Stonestreet.

The help requested is often money from gift cards Grandma is to purchase at a specified store or a wire transfer to a specified company. The amount is usually in the hundreds of dollars, and Grandma is convinced it’s a legitimate call.

But it’s not, so be careful when answering any phone call. If you hear such a plea from the caller, stay calm and get suspicious immediately!

More details are available at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0204-family-emergency-scams.

Interestingly, robocallers don’t leave this type of message for Grandma or Grandpa, so pre-screening calls through letting the call go to voicemail can avoid such a scam and make a lot of sense.

The new twist is that 25% of victims of family imposter fraud victims who reported to the Federal Trade Commission in 2018 were asked to send cash rather than gift cards.

Monday, December 16, 2019

12 Days of Scams Day 2: Job offer scams

Currently, one of the most effective online scams deals with job offers. Taking advantage of those needing to find a way to earn more income, those bogus job offers from a so-called employer generally involves paying a fee for further assistance in securing the possible job. Often, the money is needed for “training” or “equipment.” But there are no jobs, just people willing to hook new victims.

An alternate version is when the fake employer sends a bogus paycheck that cannot be cashed. In the meantime, more money will be solicited from the victim.

Learn more at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0243-job-scams and tell family members and friends about this heartless scam that often results in losses in hundreds of dollars because the victims desperately need a job.