Sunday, February 5, 2012

Still Working the Economic Stimulus for Scams

Some scams are, in the words of an old Barbra Streisand song, ageless and evergreen.  In the current online issue of, a newsletter on the spending associated with the federal Recovery Act, there's a warning about a possible scam that invokes the Recovery Act.  There's a form that people have been getting, promising that if they fill it out, they can get a $500 "stimulus payment."

How many layers of wrong are in this?  Firstly, the money involved in the Recovery Act that goes specifically to individuals went out years ago.  Secondly, the IRS doesn't generally reach out and tell people they are entitled to money.  Thirdly, is there a specific federal agency named in this letter?  No.  It throws around terms like "American" and "stimulus money."  And while they don't ask for money, they DO ask for your Social Security number, which makes you a sitting duck for identity theft.  This makes the scam artists who merely charge you money for useless "free money" information look positively benign by comparison.  This sounds very similar to an identity theft scam that rolled through Ohio a few years ago.  In that one, "Ohio Advantage" pretended to be a social service agency that was giving away money, but collected information for identity theft. 

Remember to NEVER give sensitive information like Social Security or bank account numbers unless you have initiated the contact, and check with the Better Business Bureau's website, inputting the name, phone number or website of the business.  In Ohio, you have the added advantage of checking the Attorney General's website for businesses that have had complaints.  But also, use your common sense--if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

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