Editorial – Don't fall prey to economic stimulus scamIf there’s a way to swindle people out of their hard-earned money, criminals will find it. One of the newest scams preys upon the highly publicized economic stimulus payments.
If there’s a way to swindle people out of their hard-earned money, criminals will find it.
One of the newest scams preys upon the highly publicized economic stimulus payments.
The consumer services division of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office sent out a warning Tuesday, telling how the scheme works:
Citizens are misled into believing that they are eligible for federal stimulus payments. A scam artist will contact them, promising federal stimulus money in exchange for a fee or for providing private information.
Don’t buy into it.
The attorney general’s office gives this blunt advice: 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 attorney general’s office warned.
The scammer will try all kinds of tricks, saying that personal information is needed to confirm the citizen’s eligibility for a stimulus grant, or bank account information must be provided to deposit a stimulus payment. The con artist then uses this private information to line his own pockets or steal an identity.
The attorney general’s office offered the following tips to remember. If you have an elderly relative or know a vulnerable adult who may fall for a scam, pass these tips on to them.
•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.
For more information on the latest scams, call, write or visit the Web site of: Office of Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, 1400 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; (651) 296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787; TTY: (651) 297-7206 or 1-800-366-4812; www.ag.state.mn.us.
You may also report federal stimulus scams to the following agencies: Minnesota Fraud Enforcement Partnership – 1-866-347-0911; email@example.com; www.mnscams.org; Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 20580; (202) 326-2222 or 1-877-382-4357.
In these tough economic times, it may be more tempting than ever to believe something that seems to good to be true. Don’t fall into the trap.