Tricounty News

Avoid Federal Stimulus scams

There are always some scam artists who try to capitalize on current events and the bad economy to dupe people out of their hard-earned money. The latest scam relates to the federal economic stimulus legislation passed by the United States Congress. Scam artists are trying to profit from the federal economic stimulus legislation by sending bogus e-mails to citizens, claiming that they are entitled to federal stimulus dollars if they give out their bank account or private information. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson warns citizens to be on the lookout for these scams. How the scam works The federal economic stimulus legislation provides financial resources to government agencies for construction projects and other programs. It does not provide for direct payments to individual citizens. Scam artists, however, are attempting to take advantage of the turmoil in the economy by misleading citizens into believing that they are eligible for federal stimulus payments. The promise of federal stimulus money in exchange for a fee or for providing private information is always a scam. Do not respond to any e-mail, phone call, or mailing, promising you federal stimulus money. And never give out banking, credit card, or private information to a stranger or in response to an e-mail. In some cases, the scam artist may pose as a government agency to dupe people into giving out their credit card account, Social Security number, or other private information. The scam artist may represent that this information is needed to confirm the citizen's eligibility for a stimulus grant. In other cases, the scam artist may ask for bank account information into which the stimulus payment may supposedly be deposited. The scam artist then uses this private information to unlawfully drain the citizen's bank account or commit the crime of identity theft. In other cases, the scam artist may ask people to send a check or allow their credit card account to be charged an agreed-upon amount of money, supposedly so that the citizen can obtain access to a federal stimulus payment. This is a form of "advance fee" fraud, where the citizen pays money in advance but never receives the promised goods or service. The scam artist may also rack up other unauthorized charges on the citizen's credit card. Tips to avoid stimulus scams • There are always scam artists who try to take advantage of people facing hard economic times. During a bad economy, scams go up. Remember this age-old advice: if it sounds too good to be true, it is. • Never provide bank account, credit card, or private information to a stranger or in response to an e-mail. Neither the government nor your bank will ever ask you to reply to an e-mail by providing private banking information. • Never pay money or give out private information to anyone promising that you'll receive federal stimulus money or a federal grant. You'll send the money, and the criminal will take it and run. • Don't be fooled by e-mails, mailings, or phone calls that appear to come from government agencies or that use official words like "federal," "Congressional," "presidential," "stimulus package," etc. With today's modern technology, it is cheap and easy to generate an e-mail, Web site, or mailing that looks official but is really from a crook. Minnesota Attorney General's Office 1400 Bremer Tower  445 Minnesota Street  St. Paul, MN 55101, (651) 296-3353, (800) 657-3787,  TTY (651) 297-7206  TTY (800) 366-4812 www.ag.state.mn.us.  Where to report it  For more information on the latest scams, call, write, or visit the Web site of the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson at: Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, 1400 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101 (651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787, TTY: (651) 297-7206 or (800) 366-4812, www.ag.state.mn.us. You may also report federal stimulus scams to the following agencies:  • Minnesota Fraud Enforcement Partnership, (866) 347-0911, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,   www.mnscams.org. • Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580, (202) 326-2222 or (877) 382-4357.  From the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson