The economic stimulus package has given scam artists a new angle.
These scammers are taking advantage of the hype surrounding the
President’s Economic Stimulus package.
Don’t get scammed! Learn
how to protect yourself.
Direct Mail – taking advantage of the word
Consumers are receiving direct mail
marked “private and confidential”, usually where a return address
should be. The letter inside says something like “RECESSION RELIEF”,
and there is a check, made out to you. You are asked to deposit the
check and send in a small processing fee… then you’ll get your full
The letter is designed to confuse because, when
you read beyond the bolded word “RECESSION”, you see that the check
is purportedly for prize money that you’ve won. It has nothing to do
with the recession or the President’s economic stimulus plan.
underlying message of the scam is: “here’s how to get your piece of
the President’s stimulus package. All you need to do is give us a
small amount of personal information and/or send in a small payment,
and you’ll get a big amount of money back.” Not true! This is a
variation on the Nigerian check scam that’s designed to take
advantage of people’s desperation and hope to get something from the
government. Don’t fall for it!
Making Work Pay
According to the IRS, this phishing e-mail,
which claims to come from the IRS, references the president and the
Making Work Pay provision of the
2009 economic recovery law. It says that there is a refundable
credit available to workers, consumers and retirees that can be paid
into the recipient’s bank account if the recipient registers their
account information with the IRS. The e-mail contains links to
register the account and to claim the tax refund.
In reality, most
taxpayers receive their Making Work Pay tax credit, which was
designed for wage earners, in their paychecks as a result of
decreased tax withholding, not as a lump sum distribution from a
federal fund. Additionally, consumers and retirees who are not wage
earners are not eligible for this tax credit.
What to Do
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited e-mail or
ask for personal identifying or financial information via e-mail. If
you receive a suspicious e-mail claiming to come from the IRS, take
the following steps:
Do not open any attachments to the e-mail, in case they
contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
Do not click on any links, for the same reason. Also, be
aware that the links often connect to a phony IRS Web site that
appears authentic and then prompts the victim for personal
identifiers, bank or credit card account numbers or PINs. The
phony Web sites appear legitimate because the appearance and
much of the content are directly copied from an actual page on
the IRS Web site and then modified by the scammers for their own
Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine whether the
IRS is trying to contact you.
Forward the suspicious e-mail or url address to the IRS
then delete the e-mail from your inbox.
Genuine IRS Web site
The only genuine IRS Web site is IRS.gov. All IRS.gov Web
page addresses begin with
http://www.irs.gov/. Anyone wishing to access the IRS Web
site should initiate contact by typing the IRS.gov address into
their Internet address window, rather than clicking on a link in
Phishing – bogus
e-mails promising expedited payments of “stimulus checks”
Some e-mails request bank account numbers; others request a small
credit card payment. Still others have links that download dangerous
software when they are clicked on.
These e-mail messages may seem to come from a government agency,
and they may ask you to “verify” that you qualify for a payment.
When you go to the website, it looks official, sometimes with a
picture of President Obama.
These are another variation of the
Nigerian scams suggesting that “you are heir to deceased king in
Nigeria and send money (to get your money)”. But, these news scams
suggest that “you are entitled to some economic stimulus money”.
First, there are no stimulus checks as part of President
Second, if you provide your information, these con
artists will drain your bank account dry and be gone in a flash.
Even worse, you may fall victim to identify theft down the road.
Some of the messages are even more insidious. Just clicking on the
links contained in the e-mail launches malicious software or spyware,
programs that can take personal information, like credit card
numbers from personal computers.
Phony Grants –
websites promising that they can get you money from the “stimulus
These websites look very official. They use
deceptive names and may include images of President Obama or Vice
President Biden, so the sites appear to be legitimate. They are not!
These grants do not exist.
The stimulus money will be distributed to government agencies and
nonprofit groups. Individuals will not get the money directly.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Check out a
business before parting with any money. Research the company on
the Internet, but be careful of false websites and blogs with
testimonials. Talk to friends and family. Review the
Bureau’s reliability reports.
Never click on
links or open e-mail attachments from people you don’t know.
If the e-mail
offers jobs, contact the company’s human resources department to
make sure the job openings really exist.
Do not provide
personal information in e-mail forms.
If you do fall
for a potential scam, double check your credit card statements
for unauthorized charges and dispute the charges with the
Contact your bank
and local police department as well.
Find out what is REALLY included
in the Stimulus Plan by visiting the
official government website.