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Californians Have Lost $10 Million to IRS Impersonation Scams: How to Avoid Scams

california tax deadlineAs millions of Americans file their taxes, sophisticated crooks are aiming to steal from hard-working taxpayers.

 

You’ve likely heard of the IRS phone scam. You may have even been a target yourself: a mysterious caller claiming to be an IRS agent tries to convince you that you’re in big trouble with the U.S. government.

 

“These scammers rely on intimidation”, California-based IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino said. “They’re threatening arrest; they’re threatening a lawsuit; they’re threatening other things,” Tulino said.

 

The only way to avoid arrest or a lawsuit, the scammer will tell you, is to pay them immediately – often with gift cards, a wire transfer or other dubious means.

 

Unfortunately, it often works. Californians have been conned out of at least $10 million to IRS agent impersonators, more than any other state, according to the Treasury Department.

 

Taxpayers should ignore any calls or emails claiming to be from the agency, Tulino said. “The IRS does not send uninitiated emails,” he said. “We do not make random, threatening phone calls out of the blue. First correspondence with the IRS is normally a letter in the mail.”

 

  • The IRS will never demand you pay by wire transfer, gift cards or prepaid debit cards.
  • They won’t ask for credit card information over the phone.
  • If you get a call or email you suspect is coming from a fraudster, you can report it to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General.

 

Another scheme on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” tax scam list for 2018: fax tax preparers. Taxpayers should be especially cautious when hiring someone to take care of their taxes.

 

Ruth Godfrey with the National Society of Accountants offered some practical advice: “You wouldn’t go to a hot dog vendor for medical advice, hopefully,” she said. “You shouldn’t be taking tax advice from a non-tax professional.”

 

Californians are protected by a state law that licenses tax preparers, according to Godfrey. “In California, if you’re going to charge a fee for doing a tax return, you have to have a valid credential,” she said.

 

You can check the credentials of any tax preparer yourself at the California Tax Education Council website.

 

If you’re doing your own taxes, make sure the software you’re using is IRS approved. If your household income is under $66,000, you can use “Free File” software at IRS.gov. For households with income over $66,000, there’s an option to file for free, but you’ll need to fill out the forms yourself.

 

You’ll also need to make sure your internet connection is secure, with up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer.

 

The deadline to file your taxes this year is April 17.  April 15 falls on a Sunday this year, and April 16 is a holiday for federal employees in Washington. And if you can’t pay what you owe the IRS by Tax Day.

 

Over 400 Immigrants Facing Deportation in Southern California

California ImmigrationLOS ANGELES, California — More than 100 people have been arrested by federal immigration agents over the last few days across seven Southern California counties. It is the start of a promised focus on immigration enforcement in the state.

Dozens of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are searching for roughly 400 immigrants in the region who could face deportation, as part of a week-long ongoing operation, the agency said.

ICE said most of those being sought have serious criminal records, while others are suspected of crimes or have previously been ordered to the leave the U.S.

Thomas Homan, ICE’s deputy director, promised to intensify immigration enforcement efforts in California after Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed a law limiting California law-enforcement officials’ cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

“California better hold on tight—they’re about to see a lot more deportation officers,” Mr. Homan said in a January interview. “If politicians don’t protect their communities then ICE will.”

David Marin, ICE’s top deportation official in its Los Angeles office, said his officers are targeting serious criminals who pose a potential threat to public safety.

Teams of about eight agents have been knocking on apartment and house doors around the region since before dawn Sunday.

Critics of ICE’s increased enforcement efforts in the interior of the country have said the agency is casting too wide a net and routinely arresting immigrants whose only offense is being in the country illegally. Under the Obama administration, ICE agents and officers were told to arrest only the most serious offenders.

In some cases, immigrants in the country illegally who weren’t being targeted were also arrested, after immigration agents encountered them while searching out others.

Mr. Marin said priorities for arrests still exist, but his agents can’t ignore someone they encounter who don’t have the government’s permission to be in the U.S.

“Right now we are enforcing the law and we will continue to do that until there are changes in the law,” Mr. Marin said.

He said officers from ICE’s fugitive-operations teams make such visits on a near-daily basis, but this week’s effort was larger than normal.

“Tom Homan has called out California and promised more enforcement,” Mr. Marin said. “We have more enforcement teams out than usual.”

 

Why are California’s Wildfires so Dangerous?

The Southern California blazes spreading through Ventura and Los Angeles areas are among the out-of-control wildfires residential communities have seen in the decades.

California’s fires are unusual in several ways. Comparatively, they come late in the year when the weather conditions do not have a potential to fires, and some have grown up in the middle of dense urban areas typically far from fire zones. California’s unusual wildfire activity comes largely due to dry conditions in the region and the state’s Santa Ana winds.

Between October and March, the Santa Ana winds are a common occurrence in Southern California as warm air blows in from the desert leading to blustery days in the region. At their most powerful, the winds can wreck destruction throughout the region, knocking down trees and power lines. The wind’s heat also helps dry vegetation, making it easier to burn. And when there is a fire, the winds can also transport flames quickly spreading the fire from place to place.

California WildfireThat is what scientists say happened in Southern California in recent days as at least four serious fires spread in scattered locations across Ventura and Los Angeles counties, prompting thousands to evacuate and freeways like the 405 to partially close. The Santa Ana wildfire threat index, which measures the potential for the winds to spread fire, ranked the threat level at high or extreme on Thursday from just south of Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

The hot and dry weather in the region has also contributed to the rapid spread of California’s fires. This year was the second hottest on record when measured halfway through the year. And downtown Los Angeles has received just 0.11 inches of rainfall since the beginning of October.

Lingering over recent California fires is the question of long-term climate change. Hotter temperatures dry out vegetation, making them easier to burn, and scientists say vulnerable regions like California should expect a spike in wildfires in the coming decades as temperatures continue to rise. The effect of climate change on the Santa Ana winds remains uncertain, though a 2006 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggested that warming could move the blazes’ season leading to bigger areas burned by flames.

Still, even as humans continue to stem climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace scientists say is too slow to adequately address climate change, a bunch of policy changes can reduce the impact of wildfires like those affecting Southern California from changes in land use patterns to making better use of controlled burns.

But Southern California’s fires should be a wakeup call.

Gun Control: The New Measure Could Require Locking Up Guns at Home

SAN JOSE — The Bay Area’s largest city could pass a law requiring gun owners to lock up their firearms when they leave the house — a new gun control measure for stricter than state legislation, two weeks after a man gunned down 59 people at an outdoor Las Vegas concert.

 

The idea is under consideration Tuesday by San Jose city councilmen Ash Kalra — now a state assemblyman — and Raul Peralez. In addition to requiring gun owners to lock up their weapons when they are not home, they would need to place them in a lock box in unattended cars, report theft within 48 hours and ammunition vendors would need to keep records of sales.

 

But new state legislation last year covered many of those gun control policies, except locking up firearms when an owner is not home. The San Jose City Council on Tuesday will debate that policy, which some experts say could be difficult to accomplish. And now Perlez — joined by Councilman Chappie Jones — wants to go further. They want gun owners to secure firearms inside the house even when they’re home.

 

San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have the same safe storage gun laws.

 

The lawmakers said in a joint memo that nearly 1,300 children die and 5,800 are injured in gun-related incidents every year. They said a gun is stolen every two minutes in the United States and 38 percent of suicides by gunfire are committed by kids under age 17. Nearly half of the country’s fatal suicides are done with guns.

 

Peralez, a former San Jose police officer who just rejoined the force as a reserve, owns a gun and has a covered weapons permit. He said he respects the Second Amendment and people’s right to bear arms, but the country’s founding fathers never predicted: “a civilian possessing 47 guns, which would include over a dozen high-powered rifles” used to carry out the country’s deadliest mass shooting in Las Vegas.

 

“With such high numbers of gun-related deaths, homicides and suicides, gun safety measures and precautions are more important than ever,” they wrote.

 

Irena Olender, a member of the Safe Cities Coalition, a group formed in 2016 to draft the policy, said guns should be a treat for “public health issue.”

 

“We want people to realize that guns in the house are dangerous and they need to be secured so they’re not accessed by kids,” Olender said. “People can secure them with something as simple as a trigger box — not even a lock box.”

 

But Tony Napolitano, a Republican attorney, said safe storage laws have the opposite effect: They often increase violent crime, he said, because criminals are emboldened knowing the victim doesn’t have easy access to their weapon to defend themselves.

 

“It allows criminals to become more brazen because they know the guns will be locked up,” he said. He added that the policy also allows them to be victimized twice — police become aware that a gun owner’s firearm was unsecured when they respond to a burglary or other property crime. Then the gun owner could be cited for an unlocked weapon. “It puts them in the position of being punished for being the victim.”

 

Other gun advocates have said it takes too long for a gun owner to unlock a trigger lock if they are attacked. Olender does not buy that argument.

 

California Lawmakers Want To Move Forward With Adding A Third Gender Option On Drivers’ Licenses

California law makers want to add a third gender option on drivers’ licenses. The purpose of this is to accelerate the process that people go through in order to change their sex on their birth certificate without going through an actual sex change.

California State Senators support and sponsor the “Gender Recognition Act”. This act is in support of adding a “non-binary” to the list of male and female genders on documents used for state identification.

Toni Atkins, who is the State Senator of San Diego, stated “Our society is becoming more enlightened every day about gender identity”. “It’s time for our state to make it easier for transgender Californians and those who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender to have state-issued identification documents that reflect who they truly are.” She also added: “This bill will help them avoid the discrimination and harassment that too many of these residents face in their daily lives.”

Under California law, it is required that an individual who is seeking to change their birth certificate must show proof of appropriate clinical treatment regarding gender transition coming from a doctor.

This new legislation would allow people to change their gender without a hearing and would remove the requirement mentioned above as long as no objection is filed.

San Jose To Address The Homeless Problem

The council of San Jose is seeking for the solution to the homeless problem. They are considering various controversial solutions to get homeless people off the streets. The scheduled public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 5, when the council will debate various measures.

homeless problemLast year a large homeless encampment, so-called “The Jungle”, was dismantled, leaving 5,000 homeless people scattered around the city. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo says that it is a serious issue that requires a lot of tools to be solved.

A number of measures have been proposed to solve the problem. One of them is providing homeless people with temporary housing in manufactured homes on Evans Lane. Another proposed solution is permanent housing at an apartment complex on Senter Road with 162 available units.

The complex was approved by the planning commission but was appealed by the area residents. While Mayor Ricardo understands the concerns, he is positive permanent housing is a safer solution to the homeless problem. Homeless people are already living in the area on the streets and it will be a better solution to get them housed.

Another proposed option is to build an encampment sanctioned by the city following Portland’s example.

The less controversial option is to offer $5 million to landlords for capital improvements to house homeless veterans.

San Jose Downtown Gets New Hospital

San Jose Downtown has been waiting for a new hospital to replace the closed one for 12 years, and finally thousands of patients got a new country-run hospital. The old hospital was shut down due to rising costs in 2004. Fortunately, the residents of the area will soon be provided with services that have long been missed.

hospital

On Monday, June 13, the Valley Health Center Downtown will open its doors with an urgent care center where patients with non-life-threatening will be provided with all the required care. The facility will be open every day 8 am to 10 pm.

More services are to be added, such as pediatrics, gynecology, primary care, radiology, as well as a lab and pharmacy. The three-floor building is located at East Santa Clara and North 17th streets. 200 employees will be helping the patients, including 37 doctors and nurses. The estimated annual number of patients is 30,000 with approximately 90,000 visits every year.

A community even to raise awareness among the area residents about the new available services is scheduled for Saturday, June 11, and will start at 9 am.

San Jose Ranked Best For Work

If you are looking for a new job, San Jose is the place for you to go. A new report released by Glassdoor shows that it is the best city for work in the United States.

To determine what cities are best for jobs, Glassdoor measured the cost of living on a city, how easy it is to find a job there and how happy the employees are with their job and the balance between work and life. To measure all of these, they counted average pay and home value, job satisfaction ratings and number of openings on Glassdoor.san jose

San Jose currently has over 61,000 openings on Glassdoor website. Average home value is at $965,000 and average salary is $112,000, and these numbers make San Jose the best place for work.

Another Bay Area city, San Francisco, follows San Jose on this list, and Seattle, Washington, is the third, followed by Boston, the first east coast city on the list. Washington, D.C. is the fifth with 160,000 openings and the average salary of $70,000.

The job hiring scores have been improving significantly for both the San Jose and the San Francisco areas. The report also shows that the West Coast is in general the best area for work in the United States, especially the stretch from the Bay Area and up north along the coast.

San Jose Is One Of The Most Expensive Rental Markets in The US

The top five of the most expensive rental markets in the US are in the Bay Area.

According to the Zumper apartment rental website the most expensive rent in the country is in San Francisco, followed by New York, Boston and two other Californian cities, Oakland and San Jose. The average price for one bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3,590. In Oakland it is $2,280 and $2,270 in San Jose, as the Zumper National Rent Report for April has it.

san jose

San Jose and Oakland take measures to prevent prices from growing so fast. San Jose put a 5% cap on rent increases for the units controlled by the city’s rent law. Oakland approved a 90-day moratorium on rent increases. New analyses from several different sources also expect the prices leveling for renters and homebuyers in the Bay Area.

The Zumper report shows that even the leveling of prices will not become a real relief for consumers in the nearest time.

This was the first time Oakland outdid San Jose in the rental rankings. Oakland is quickly becoming a more desirable place to live with the job growth and the companies such as Uber moving to the city. Many people also move to Oakland as it gets abnormally expensive to live in San Francisco and it seems wiser to commute from Oakland.

Now it is really possible that Oakland will outdo Boston in the rankings, even though Boston has always had a strong position.

The price for a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland went up 14% from the last year. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $2,720 now and has gone up 18.3 percent since the last year. Those are the highest percentages in the US. In San Jose the rent for a 2-bedroom unit went up 17.4% during the last year. In San Francisco the cost for a 2-bedroom apartment only went up 5,9% but the price itself is much higher at $4,850.

In 2016 the prices are expected to go up 7-9% in Oakland and 3-4% in San Francisco. The increase in San Jose is expected to be the same but go at a slower rate.

San Jose Saves Millions From Audits

San Jose could save millions of dollars from about 300 open audit findings.

Sharon Erickson, resident auditor, has found 296 pending recommendation that are reported today in the City Council. 18 of them could save San Jose $13 million, and 6 of them have a potential to end legal disputes. There are audits that date back to 5 or 6 years ago.audit

In 2011 the city collected $148 million from unused sick leave. Although it was collected for the most part, in December the city made a decision to track down the rest. In 2014 most of the proposals in an audit of San Jose libraries have been addressed and resolved for the most part. Some changes were made, such as all the libraries going cash-free and staffing and scheduling changes to better deal with the busiest hours.

Auditor’s office organizes several audits per year in order to help the city save more money and improve efficiency. Every six months Erickson reports to the council about all open recommendations. 45 recommendations have been closed or enacted since the last report.

The results of these audits, for instance, were an agreement with unions that will help save money on the two retirement systems the city has, and assigning more responsibilities for volunteers in the libraries.

According to Erickson, there is still a lot of work. The Department of Transportation still struggles to find financial recourses to repave the city’s worst streets and for the road maintenance. Some of these issues might be addressed by a citywide sales tax later this year.

San Jose IT Department works to improve general controls continuing their work on 10 audit recommendations from 2012, and customer service’s arm still has 20 recommendations to work on.