Anna Sirotina/iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- Before the big game on Sunday, ten lucky finalists and young filmmakers were all wondering who was going to be the big winner for Doritos' "Crash the Super Bowl" contest.
The way the winner finds out is just like everyone else. They watch as their commercial airs live during the game.
What does the winner get besides their own Doritos commercial during the biggest sporting event in the world? Well, they also get $1 million and a job with Universal Pictures, working with the likes of Pitch Perfect 2 director, producer and actress Elizabeth Banks.
In fact, Banks was part of the judging panel for the contest and told ABC News, "one of my favorite parts of this process was getting to call the 10 finalists and tell them they are going to the Super Bowl ... we were like making their life when we made these phone calls. There's no better feeling than making someone's dream come true."
You can watch the 10 finalists now at Doritos.com to see all the great work that went into this campaign.
"They come from all walks of life," Banks, 40, said of the finalists. "Some are screenwriters, some are filmmakers, some are cameramen, it runs the gamut. The commercials came out really, really well and they are all different and surprising."
Banks is entering into her own uncharted territory with her directorial debut in Pitch Perfect 2. She believes she is "building on an amazing legacy" from the first film and said this sequel, due out May 15, will move the story line forward.
"We wanted to give the audience as much of what they love about Fat Amy and Beca and all the rest of these characters and the sort of joyfulness of the first movie, but that we also gave you something new, something fresh," she said. "I really feel strongly that we found a great movie that can stand on its own ... we're really taking it to another level."
ilyast/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A first of its kind case has targeted subprime car loans.
The Federal Trade Commission announced on Friday it has taken action against two car title lending companies, reaching settlements that will require them to stop using deceptive advertising to lure borrowers who often end up paying much more than the face value of the loan.
Sandy Brown, assistant director in the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, told ABC News the action is needed to protect consumers who are most vulnerable.
“They lure consumers in by claiming that consumers can get a zero percent loan based on a car titles,” Brown told ABC News on Friday. “The problem here is there are some very important elements of those loans that the consumers are unaware of before they walk in the door.”
The companies, First American title Lending of Georgia and Finance Select, Inc., have agreed to settle those charges, the first against title lenders.
Brown told ABC News the settlement would require the two companies to be up-front about their fees and terms.
“They must disclose what the post introductory rate of their loans are,” she said. “They have to disclose any kind of qualifying conditions. They have to disclose to consumers what the affect is of failing to make complete repayment in the introductory term.”
The FTC says vulnerable borrowers may not understand how costly these loans can be with interest rates up to 300 percent. If consumers don't repay, promptly high finance charges pile up, and they could lose their cars
More than a million people took out a car title loan in 2013.
Victor Emond/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Highway Traffic Administration announced on Saturday that 2.1 million vehicles from model years 2002 to 2004 have been recalled for an airbag defect.
The agency said the latest recall involves Acura, Dodge, Jeep, Honda, Pontiac and Toyota vehicles that have already been recalled for the same problem.
The head of NHTSA, Mark Rosekind, said on Saturday that original attempts to fix the defects proved ineffective in some cases, saying nearly 40 air bags that had been replaced under the previous recall had deployed inadvertently again.
“This is unfortunately a complicated issue for consumers, who may have to return to their dealer more than once,” Rosekind said in a statement. “But this is an urgent safety issue, and all consumers with vehicles covered by the previous recalls should have that remedy installed. Even though it’s a temporary solution until the new remedy is available, they and their families will be safer if they take the time to learn if their vehicle is covered and follow their manufacturers’ instructions. A hassle is much better than a family tragedy.”
The new recalls cover 2.12 million Acura MDX, Dodge Viper, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Odyssey, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix and Toyota Avalon models made in the early 2000s.
The vehicles were subject to earlier recalls to address a problem with an electronic component manufactured by TRW that caused some airbags to deploy inadvertently.
Due to the dangers involved in an inadvertent deployment, and because some of the vehicles involved may also have defective Takata airbags, NHTSA is urging consumers who were covered by the original recalls to take their vehicles to their local dealer for the original repairs.
NFL Media(PHOENIX) -- Just in time for the Super Bowl, many advertisers have already released their commercials online, while also attracting millions of views.
The average 30-second Super Bowl commercial can cost as much as $4.5 million. And to some advertisers, it's worth getting their brand in front of more than 112 million viewers, which is the number that watched last year's game.
Some companies like Doritos, Pepsi and newcomer Carnival Cruise are asking the public to vote on potential ads and the winners' spots will debut during the game. About 15 first-time brands are advertising this year -- the most since 2000, including adhesive and sealant maker Loctite.
Here are the Super Bowl commercials and teasers:
1. Mophie: "All Powerless"
The one-minute ad for the remote phone charger shows what happens when a phone dies.
2. Kia: “The Perfect Getaway"
3. Snickers: “The Brady Bunch”
4. Toyota: "How Great I Am"
Paralympian Amy Purdy triumphs to the iconic words of Muhammad Ali in a commercial for the Toyota Camry.
5. BMW i3: "Newfangled Idea"
In 1994, no one knew how big the Internet would be, as shown by a clip of broadcasters Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel then. The commercial flashes forward 21 years later to the new all-electric BMW i3, which is made in a wind-powered factory.
6. Budweiser: "Lost Dog"
Budweiser is bringing back its winning combination for its Super Bowl 49 ad this year: an adorable puppy and a cross-species friendship with a Clydesdale horse.
7. Always' "#LikeAGirl"
The first feminine care ad during the Super Bowl is a reprise of P&G's Always "#LikeAGirl" ad introduced last summer. The 60-second version of the ad shows that the phrase "like a girl" doesn't have to be an insult and aims to make a difference in girls' confidence.
8. Nationwide: "Invisible Mindy Kaling"
9. T-Mobile: "#KimsDataStash"
Reality television star Kim Kardashian West urges the public to "Help save the data."
10. Victoria's Secret
L Brands' Victoria's Secret commercial will air after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.
11. McDonald's: "Pay With Lovin'"
Between Feb. 2 and 14, McDonald's customers who order items during pre-selected times will get to "Pay with Lovin'." In other words, a McDonald's employee will let you know if you've been chosen to get your order for free and allow you to pay with high-fives, dancing and other ways to express "Lovin'."
12. Mountain Dew: "Come Alive"
Mountain Dew's commercial advertises its two new flavors of Kickstart energy drink. It features ”Out The Speakers Feat Rich Kidz” by A-Trak and Milo & Otis plus So You Think You Can Dance alum D-Trix.
13. Dove Men Care: "#RealStrength"
This ad follows Dove Men Care's 2010 Super Bowl ad "Manthem" that featured a man's real and "unsung moments" from birth to fatherhood.
14. Eat24: "Hangry"
The ad for food delivery app and website Eat24 features Snoop Dogg and Gilbert Gottfried. It will be air in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Miami and Baltimore during the first quarter.
15. Terminator Genisys: Trailer
The next Terminator film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor will be released on July 1.
16. Bud Light: "Coin"
Bud Light released its 2015 Super Bowl ad entitled "Coin," in which a Bud Light fan heads out for an epic night filled with '80s "old school" fun and games. There’s even a life-size Pac Man board.
17. Skittles: #SettleIt
Newcomer Skittles released a 15-second teaser ahead of its first Super Bowl ad. The teaser's description states: "During Super Bowl 49, the townspeople of this sleepy town will take matters into their own hand and #SettleIt."
18. Carl's Jr.
Carl's Jr. released its Super Bowl commercial last week and the ad starring a scantily-clad model incited a fiery online reaction.
19. Wix.com: "#ItsThatEasy"
The ad for the website builder features former NFL starsBrett Favre, Emmitt Smith, Terrell Owens, Larry Allen and Franco Harri as small business owners, plus "Entourage" and "Suburgatory" actor Rex Lee.
20. eSurance: Lindsay Lohan
Actress Lindsay Lohan tweeted on Thursday: "Maybe you've heard about me being in an #ad for @esurance. Well, it’s #sorta true..." followed by a link to a "behind-the-scenes" video.
21. Nissan: "With Dad"
Car maker Nissan released a Super Bowl teaser on Wednesday with a social media campaign using YouTube “content creator” videos.
22. Ecuador: All You Need Is Ecuador"
Ecuador's tourism campaign released last March is making a bid for the Super Bowl. "All You Need Is Ecuador," or "Todo lo que necesitas es Ecuador," uses lyrics from The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."
NFL Media(PHOENIX) -- Think Super Bowl ads are getting expensive? Try getting a ticket to the big game!
The cheapest single ticket price on StubHub Friday afternoon is selling for $9,498.99, with prices rising on secondary markets with two days left until kickoff.
Short sellers, who profit off the volatility in ticket prices online, along with the dwindling supply of game seats are credited for the drastic rise in cost of tickets, many of which have a face value of $500-$1000.
Of course, for that price you’d expect a great view of the action, right?
Not quite. Sideline tickets for Sunday’s game are selling upwards of $25,000.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The markets closed the last day of January near the session’s lows, marking the worst month for the Dow and S&P 500 since January 2014.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session on Friday at 17,164.95, down 251.90 from its open.
The Nasdaq also fell by 48.17 to close at 4,635.24. The S&P 500 was down 26.26 to close at 1994.99.
Chevron was one of the Dow’s biggest losers after reporting a 30 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit.
Pilots of American Airlines and U.S. Airways now have a single labor contract, a step toward combining workforces at the two carriers following their merger in December 2013.
A federal appeals court in Washington D.C. on Friday ruled that of POM Wonderful LLC’s advertisements made a misleading or false claim that the pomegranate-based products cubed the risk of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer.
“Today’s decision by the D.C. Circuit is a victory for consumers,” said Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement.” It is in keeping with established law that advertisers who market products for serious health conditions must have rigorous science to back up those claims.”
Shake Shack(NEW YORK) -- The founder and CEO of Shake Shack are on a high as the New York-based food chain's stock soars in its IPO Friday.
Danny Meyer, Shake Shack founder and Union Square Hospitality Group founder, said Friday's event was the culmination of a 30-year journey when he opened Union Square Cafe at 27 years old. At the time, his family wanted him to be a lawyer.
Meyer told ABC News' chief business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis the two smartest choices he's made:
"Number one was firing myself as chef three weeks before Union Square Cafe opened," he said. "I wouldn't be here today if I had kept being the chef."
"And the second one kind of relates to that. And it's really surrounding myself with people who know how to do things I don't know how to do in my wildest dreams: people like Randy -- people who run Union Square Hospitality Group. I get to be a coach and a cheerleader and a visionary. I love food. I love making people happy with food," he said.
Mid-day shares of "SHAK" on the New York Stock Exchange were trading above $48 a share mid-day.
The company priced its IPO above expectations with a valuation of $745.5 million. Shake Shack raised $105 million, with five million shares at $21 each.
"We honestly thought we'd sell a couple hot dogs," CEO Randy Garutti said. "Shake Shack was born as a humble hot dog cart to raise money for a park. And three years later Shake Shack was born. And here we are ten years later, never imagining that we would ever be in a place like this. And we're acting today exactly how we acted [for] that first Chicago-style hot dog. We're doing one hot dog, one burger at a time."
The company is planning to open 10 new restaurants a year for the foreseeable future, with plans for Austin, Texas this year.
Zoonar/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — Here's a reason to put your keys away: The only thing tech savvy criminals need to gain entry to your home is just a quick photo of your key.
After sending a photo of the front and back of a key to a website called KeysDuplicated.com, the company promises to turn your photos into a workable key that will be cut and mailed the same day they receive a request.
ABC Buffalo television affiliate WIVB tried the service, quickly snapping photos of a producer's keys and submitting them.
While Keys Duplicated has security measures in place to weed out photos that may have been surreptitiously taken, the company also brings up the point that cyber criminals are less likely to order keys when their credit card is involved.
Jordan Meyer, the co-founder of Keys Duplicated, told WIVB that his company only accepts high-quality photos.
"We do look for keys that might have been tampered, photoshopped, etc. Maybe taken at a distance with a telephoto lens, things like that," he said. "It's not 100 percent foolproof."
The bottom line: While online key cutting services can make running an extra errand easier -- it may be best to start guarding your keys the same way you protect your passwords.
McDonald's(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's new Super Bowl ad shows that "lovin'" pays, and it's a different kind of payment than what buys you a 30-second $4.5 million spot.
"We want to thank our customers for making our day and hopefully they will make someone else’s as well -- that’s what Lovin’ is all about," a spokeswoman for McDonald's said.
Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 14, customers who order items during pre-selected times will get to "Pay with Lovin'." In other words, a McDonald's employee will let you know if you've been chosen to get your order for free.
"From selfies, hugs to high fives -- we have a bunch of fun ways to express your Lovin'," McDonald's says.
Last Sunday, McDonald's released a 30-second teaser for its newest ad that stated, "This February, McDonald’s will be randomly accepting a new form of payment."
What has been touted as one of the greatest Super Bowl ads of all time is McDonald's 1993 ad that featured basketball legends Michael Jordan and Larry Bird playing a game of H-O-R-S-E for a Big Mac.
McDonald's expressed a different kind of lovin' Wednesday when it announced that its CEO of nearly three years Don Thompson was stepping down. The new CEO is Steve Easterbrook, who previously oversaw McDonald's in the U.K. then northern Europe.
Moodboard/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — If employers want to improve worker satisfaction, they’re advised not to cut out the middleman.
More specifically, a Vanderbilt University study contends that a real trickle-down theory likely exists at most workplaces in that a supervisor’s relationship with the middle manager directly affects lower-level employees.
Study author Ray Friedman, with colleagues from other schools, examined the dynamic of 1,500 full-time workers at 94 U.S. hotels and discovered that “middle managers’ satisfaction with their senior managers was related positively to line employees’ satisfaction with middle managers.”
Conversely, if a supervisor has a poor relationship with a middle manager, the people on the rung below are often likely to be disgruntled.
Expanding the trickle-down theory even further, other studies have shown that businesses with a high rate of turnover will have lower customer satisfaction.
Starbucks(NEW YORK) -- Does the world have Kenny G to thank for the Starbucks Frappuccino blended drink? Maybe.
The Grammy award-winning musician recently spoke to Bloomberg about how he met Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and became one of Starbucks’ early investors.
“My uncle -- my dad’s brother -- was, I think, the very first guy that gave Howard Schultz money to get Starbucks growing,” Kenny G told Bloomberg. “And my uncle called me and said, ‘I know you’ve been selling some CDs. Meet this guy Howard Schultz. Give him some money for his company Starbucks.’”
As Kenny G -- and the rest of the world -- later found out, investing in Starbucks did not disappoint.
The saxophonist, whose latest album Brazilian Nights was released on Tuesday, also named the Frappuccino his Starbucks drink of choice and took partial credit for its addition to the menu.
“At the beginning, Starbucks didn’t have anything but coffee, and there was another company, Coffee Bean, that had…something called blended,” Kenny G said. “And I would always call Howard and say, ‘Howard, there’s this thing that they do there that’s like a milkshake or whatever.’ And so I think that part of the reason that they did Frappuccinos was people like me giving them that kind of feedback. So I’d like to think that I’m partially responsible for that.”
"Kenny has been a dear friend of Starbucks since the beginning of the company and we are very appreciative of everyone, including Kenny, who've been a part of the success of Frappuccino," a Starbucks spokesperson told ABC News.
While Kenny G may have spoken to Schultz about adding an iced blended drink, two Starbucks partners first began developing the idea in 1993 when they saw an opportunity for the cold beverages in Southern California, the Starbucks spokesperson said. By spring of 1995, the first Frappuccino blended beverages, Coffee and Mocha, were available nationally.
In addition to the Frappuccino, Kenny G also said he had a role in Starbucks selling music, since his Christmas album, Miracles, was the first record that Starbucks sold in 1994.
"That was the experiment to see if they could sell music at the counter, and it worked really well," said Kenny G.
Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Facebook is launching a new place tips feature that will serve up tips about where you are using cellular networks, Wi-Fi and GPS, but there's a way to opt out.
Place tips brings up relevant tips about a user's location, similar to what someone may find on Foursquare and Yelp.
"When you tap on place tips, you’ll see a series of cards with info about the place you’re at," Facebook product manager Mike LeBeau wrote in a blog post. "If you choose to view place tips, you’ll find things like posts and photos your friends have shared with you about that place."
The feature won't show a user's friends where they are and will not post anything to Facebook. If you already share your location with Facebook but don't want place tips, check to make sure it's turned off in your mobile app.
Choose settings, location and "Place Tip Settings" to toggle the service on or off. You can also turn off tips for places you visit regularly by tapping the menu at the top of the tip to hide them.
Facebook said it's testing the service in New York City. Several businesses in the city will use Bluetooth beacons, which send signals to a person's phone when they're nearby. Facebook said this will help them make sure users are getting "the right tips for the right place."
McDonald's(NEW YORK) -- Get ready, America: McDonald's new CEO is British and he's bringing his fast food turnaround experience from across the pond.
You're not likely to see McDonald's change French fries to "chips" stateside, but you may see a stronger emphasis on healthier, more fresh foods -- a direction in which McDonald's and other food brands are already heading.
Steve Easterbrook, an accountant by training, became chief executive of McDonald’s U.K. in 2006, when the brand was struggling with the public's perception of unhealthy food and low-wage jobs. In the year that he was promoted as head of McDonald's in northern Europe in 2008, sales rose 10 percent at the 1,200 U.K. McDonald’s.
The 48-year-old now has the task of boosting McDonald's amid sagging sales in the U.S., as reported by its quarterly earnings announcement last Friday.
Here are some things that you can find at U.K. McDonald's that you may see more of in the U.S.:
1. Free Fruit Fridays
At McDonald's in the U.K., kids now get a free McDonald’s "Apple and Grape Fruit Bag" when you buy a Happy Meal on the first Friday of every month.
Since the program launched in March 2014, McDonald's says it gave away the equivalent of 173,000 whole pineapples, when that fruit was part of the giveaway. By the end of this March, McDonald's says it will have given away the equivalent of 2.6 million apples and 17.6 million grapes, according to its U.K. website.
In the U.S., for the last few years, McDonald's has offered as Happy Meal side options apples, previously with caramel dipping sauce that can be found in some locations like Canada, and "Go-gurt" yogurt. Last month, McDonald's said it is offering "Cuties" California clementines until March in Happy Meals.
2. More Nutritional Labels?
Among the changes that Easterbrook oversaw at McDonald's in the U.K. were nutritional labels on table mats, according to the Financial Times.
3. More "Football"
An entire section of the McDonald's website, one out of 10 categories in the U.K. site, is devoted to "football" (or, "soccer" for people in the U.S.). In that section, McDonald's emphasizes awards and corporate sponsorship of youth playing and teams.
Besides devotion to soccer, one of the biggest global differences is how the British often refer to McDonald’s: “MacDonald’s,” “Maccies,” and “Maccy D’s” are common nicknames for the Golden Arches over there. Similarly, French customers refer to the company as “McDo” while Australians often call it “Macca’s.”
Another change that McDonald's in the U.K. implemented under Easterbrook was composting at some locations, the Financial Times reported.
Some McDonald's locations have recycling and composting programs, such as in California, but the company website emphasizes the former rather than the latter.
5. Food Sourcing
Under Easterbrook, McDonald's introduced organic British milk and coffee certified by the Rainforest Alliance, the Financial Times reported.
All of the eggs across the entire British menu are free-range and have been for 10 years, McDonald's U.K. website states.
McDonald's corporate website states that it hopes to begin purchasing verified sustainable beef in 2016 worldwide.
With different meat sourcing standards in the U.K., McDonald's website states that it uses only 100 percent British and Irish beef burger patties and 100 percent British pork.
The British McDonald's has used sustainably-sourced fish since 2001 and carry the Marine Sewardship Council (MSC) eco-label. In 2013, McDonald's in the U.S. said it would carry the MSC eco-label.
6. Delicious "British" Desserts
Want a Smarties or Cadbury's Crunchie McFlurry? Or an ice cream cone with Cadbury "99 Flake" chocolate? That's only available if you're at a McDonald's in the U.K.
Other items found in British locations: "Toffee and Honeycomb" McFlurry, "Chocolatey Donut" and "Mixed Berry and Custard Pie." While you're at it, wash it all down with a McDonald's Toffee Latte.
7. Fish Fingers
In addition to the classic Filet-O-Fish, McDonald's U.K. offers fish fingers, described as three "lightly-breaded fingers of tender filleted Hoki."
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Starbucks and Match.com are teaming up for the online dating site’s first-ever branded product feature in conjunction with what they hope to be "the world’s largest Starbucks date" on Feb. 13.
Match has already rolled out the product feature, called “Meet at Starbucks,” which enables users to invite others for a cup of coffee at Starbucks and find the best mutual location with the click of a button.
“This has always been sort of the dream partnership for me and Match, because Starbucks is ubiquitous in people’s lives. Dating is something pretty much every person does at some point in their life, and so is Starbucks,” Match CEO Sam Yagan told ABC News.
Yagan himself has been personally involved in the deal, he said, because of his love for Starbucks.
“I go to Starbucks literally twice day I think -- I might be one of their best customers -- and I often overhear a Match date happening and I’ll go introduce myself sometimes,” he said.
It also makes business sense, though, with 30 percent of Match users listing “coffee & conversation” as an interest, making it the third-most popular interest on the site.
“By far the most first [Match] dates happen at Starbucks than anywhere else,” Yagan said, based on information culled from Match messages and survey data. “What we’re doing here is enabling something that’s already happening. People are already on Match and already going to Starbucks on first dates. About 10,000 people a day go on first dates from Match. ... We’re trying to celebrate that, bring those success stories to the forefront and make it even easier in our product to meet up at Starbucks.”
Yagan envisions the “Meet at Starbucks” product feature as taking the pressure off asking someone out.
“A lot of times people feel a little apprehensive about suggesting to actually meet in person. One of the reasons that can be hard is people think they have to propose something super novel,” he explained. “But what’s even better than novel is something safe, comfortable, easy, ubiquitous, aspirational, right environment, all those things. Now they can just hit the button and pick the one you want to go to.”
On Starbucks’ end, the brand thought of the partnership as a way to celebrate what it already encourages: connection.
“For us at our core, coffee is really about that chance to inspire, nurture, encourage moments of connection when people get together face-to-face over a cup of coffee and really be able to chat, share and enjoy. This has always been central to our core,” Starbucks global chief marketing officer Sharon Rothstein told ABC News. “We sought out natural partners, and the interesting thing is when you hear about Match, all they’ve done over the years is encouraged connection and getting people together. And then you take it obviously to Valentine’s Day which is just around the corner.”
The day before what is marketed as the most romantic day of the year, Starbucks will be hosting what it is calling “The World’s Largest Starbucks Date” to introduce and promote the partnership.
On Friday, Feb. 13, participating stores in the U.S. and Canada will feature a special pairings menu designed for two for $5. From 2 p.m. to close, dates (or anyone) can choose from a Caffé Verona Coffee Press for two and a double chocolate chunk brownie, tall flat white and chocolate croissant or grande raspberry mocha or grande white chocolate mocha and heart cookie.
The stores will also be playing special in-store music playlists and offering photo props to encourage people to share a photo of their date online at the hashtag #StarbucksDate.
“Our hope out of the partnership is really first and foremost that as people think about their busy days, that we encourage them to take time out and do something to stop and have a moment. Truth be told, we care more about embracing that chance to come together than we do about the numbers,” Rothstein said. “We are obviously engaged in all sorts of connections, whether it’s you and an employee, you and your grandmother, you and your children or you on a date.”
The hashtag has already been used hundreds of times naturally by people dating at Starbucks, and the brand has countless success stories of people meeting and finding love at the stores.
“Between the weddings and 'where I mets,' these are just really great talk points for us as we launch the conversation about this,” Rothstein said. “In the fall, one of the stories we did on social [media] was how did we meet, and we got lots and lots of customers to give us back their moments of connection there and tell us that story. This is the dialogue we want to continue to embrace with Match, and frankly make that part of our core in a more ongoing part of our conversation with people.”
Oleksiy Mark/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When Oscar Lomeli asked his friends for a recommendation on a tax preparer, he didn’t think he’d end up getting stuck paying back his bogus refund.
“They [friends] told me she was good,” said the engineer from Costa Mesa, California. ”She [the preparer] totally lied and now it’s my fault that she wrote the wrong information and now I have to pay the consequences for that.”
With nearly 60 percent of Americans using tax professionals to prepare their returns, the Internal Revenue Service has issued a warning to be on the lookout for con artists making the rounds.
Lomeli said during tax time, the tax preparer came to his house and then left with all of his papers. Two weeks later, he learned he’d receive a $3,000 refund. Lomeli said the woman came to his house to pay him.
“She paid me my refund in $20 bills,” he said.
Lomeli said he later learned that the tax preparer had made up thousands of dollars in deductions. His refund totaled $4,500. Lomeli said she kept $1,500.
“It [the filing] stated that I had a business, which I do not, and it said I lost money in my business, therefore my refund was bigger,” he said.
The IRS said Lomeli’s situation was an all-too-common problem.
“Legitimate preparers should be charging you a fee tied to the amount of work it’s going to take to prepare your return and file it,” said John Koskinen, an IRS commissioner. “That fee should be independent to any refund to which you’re entitled.”
Koskinen shared these three tax preparer red flags:
A preparer who bases fees on the size of the refund.
A preparer who asks you to sign blank or incomplete tax returns.
A preparer who can’t provide a PTIN (preparer tax identification number)
There’s also these additional tips:
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program offers free tax help to people who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.
Make less than $60,000? You can file your federal tax returns for free through IRS Free File. TurboTax is also letting those taxpayers file state returns for free and H&R Block is charging $9.99 through Feb. 15.