Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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Stimulus Package Scams

Scam artists are quick to exploit the ongoing economic crisis - by tricking taxpayers into believing the recently passed stimulus package has something in it for them.

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday put out a warning about a number of internet scams claiming that individuals can claim government grants being paid out from the economic stimulus package. This is a lie, the stimulus package does not include money for individual financial gain.

Some of the scams originate on website ads. These ads are every where. Some show pictures of President Obama or Vice-President Joe Biden, or show names of people that imply a relationship with the government.

PresidentObamaGrants.com was one such site. They offer a "free grant kit" and ask for $1.88 to pay for shipping to receive the kit. This may seem to be a reasonable shipping charge and you might feel you haven't nothing to lose by ordering, so you pay online with your credit card.

But hidden in small print are the conditions: if you don't cancel within two weeks by following their very complicated cancellation process, you'll be charged a one-time membership fee of $99, and then billed $49.95 every month for access to an online resource center. They will also automatically enroll you in another date-related membership that charges $29.95 a month. In one year you'll have been charged over $1000.

OfficialStimulusGrants.com was another site to lure in customers and then stick them with expensive memberships that the customer didn't want and have a hard time getting out of. Both sites are now inactive, surely in response to the heat from the FTC.

While both websites in question have disclosed their terms upon enrollment and only a court can decide if the ads were actually illegal, the FTC believes the websites are deceptive or misleading and wants consumers to be on guard. As always, protect your personal and financial information and be very careful about giving that information to any company that you aren't sure of or didn't initiate contact with. Remember, anyone can buy ad space or set up a website.
These free stimulus money ads were recently on Facebook.com and Google. Both companies have been quick to pull known scam ads and are actively working with the FTC to help fight these fraudulent ads.

Other scams originate through e-mail. Spam and Phishing e-mails ask recipients to click on links that request personal information "so that stimulus grants can be deposited directly into their bank account." Some of them look like legitimate government sites and may ask that you verify personal information so you can receive your stimulus money.

These emails are scams intended to either steal the victim's identity or gain access to the victim's bank account. Remember, the government doesn't initiate contact with anyone by email - they will send you a letter through the postal service if they really need to reach you.

Keep in mind that scam artists are quick to change their technique when they know someone is on to them. The FTC is keeping an eye out on this ongoing problem, so crooks will keep coming up with new ways to cheat. It is the consumer's responsibility to be wary of possible scams - protect yourself.

I have also seen these ads on street corners and bus stop benches - just be aware that some crooks are using low-tech methods to attract unsuspecting customers, but their plan is the same as the high-tech crooks. They want your bank information, your credit card number, or your identity.

The true government website for information about where the stimulus money is going is www.recovery.gov. The stimulus package includes help for struggling homeowners, the creation of jobs to fight rising unemployment, and various other government programs intended to strengthen the economy. Individuals are not being granted money for personal financial gain through the stimulus package.

And if you want to see if there really is free government money for you, start at www.grants.gov. But keep in mind that the vast majority of federal grants are not open to individuals - grants are usually for state governments, research facilities, education programs, housing authorities, or small businesses. From grants.gov you can link to other government sites to find out about education grants, small business loans, and living assistance programs. There is no charge to search or apply for government grants or programs.

Eileen Harrington, Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said, "Consumers who may already have fallen for these scams should carefully check their credit card bills for unauthorized charges and report the scam to the FTC."

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Source:
Federal Trade Commission
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Saturday, 24 August 2019

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