2009-04-10 / Top Stories

CPB: Public Must Beware Of Stimulus-Related Scams

The New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) is alerting consumers to the latest economic stimulus-related scam as it has discovered that illegitimate offers to help consumers qualify for and/or receive mortgage-based products, payments or other economic assistance are now coming by phone. This development extends reports already provided by both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) which warned consumers that "they could get stung by an economic stimulus scam" appearing on the Web and through e-mail.

The identified and verified phone scheme offers consumers quick access to stimulus money and rate reductions.

Those calling consumers inform them that all they have to do to qualify for assistance is to provide personal identifiable information including their name, address, two (2) months worth of bank statements for both checking and savings accounts, two (2) years of income tax filings, and their mortgage loan papers as well as their deed to kickstart the process. Adding insult to injury, once they surrender this information, they are also asked to pay the initial sum of $850. Only through repeated questioning are consumers then informed that the $850 is the first payment of the total due of more than $3000 to take advantage of the stimulus aid.

"We are warning New Yorkers to be on the lookout for scams associated with President Obama's economic recovery package," said Governor David A. Paterson. "Consumers are especially vulnerable during this economic crisis, but we are taking steps to prevent New Yorkers from falling victim to predators who could cause them harm. New Yorkers who receive e-mails, links to Websites or phone calls soliciting consumers to take advantage of stimulus related money should not respond to them."

The CPB was contacted by a consumer immediately after he received an unsolicited phone call offer to make sure it was legitimate, and to warn others through the CPB if it was not. Though he did not have the name of the company, he did have a phone number and enough information so that the CPB could investigate.

The scammer referred directly to the President's stimulus package, spoke Spanish, and said the federal government had identified the consumer to her company as someone who qualified to refinance his mortgage at the stimulus package rate of 2% - - for the low price of $850 for her company's service - - payable up front.

The scammer called the consumer again the next day to see if he would be interested in meeting with her, and upon mention of contacting the CPB, hung up the phone.

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