Fraud artists use federal relief as ruse to steal money, information


From website

NASHVILLEAs Tennesseans grapple with the effects of the global economic downturn, Internet scam artists are using the guise of federal economic stimulus dollars to try to steal money from unsuspecting people.

“For years, scam artists have used the Internet to steal from people,” says Tennessee Director of Consumer Affairs Mary Clement. “Now, criminals are adopting the pretense of economic stimulus money, the same way they might use a fictional long-lost relative or some other story. It’s a shame that they are using the pretense of something meant to help states recover.”
President Obama’s economic stimulus plan is an effort to help states weather the economic crisis by increasing various programs such as unemployment compensation and COBRA benefits, and by funding a multitude of job-creating infrastructure projects. These funds will flow through federal, state or local government agencies or nonprofit organizations, and have rigorous requirements for reporting and accountability. Individuals will not receive funds directly under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act without the assistance of these government or nonprofit agencies.
Crooks are creating e-mail or web sites to take advantage of unwary Americans in a variety of ways. In one instance, scam artists are telling people that – after divulging bank details – “their” portion of stimulus money will be deposited into their bank accounts. The scam artists then empty out the bank accounts. Another scam involves a person being asked to verify personal information to qualify for stimulus money; the scam artists then use the details to commit identity theft. Sometimes, one only has to click on links provided in an e-mail to inadvertently download spyware used to steal information. Another Internet scam involves a consumer allowing a charge of as little as $1.99 on their credit card in exchange for a list of economic stimulus grants; the charge is actually a down payment for “negative-option billing,” in which a consumer must decline the option of automatically receiving goods and being billed for them.
Tennesseans who find that they have been victims of scams should immediately contact their credit card issuer or banks, file a report with law enforcement authorities, and also contact the Federal Trade Commission ( and file a complaint with Consumer Affairs ( 
The Department of Commerce and Insurance works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee.