Wednesday, March 04, 2009

FTC Warns of Economic Stimulus Scams

This posting was written by Sarah Borchersen-Keto, CCH Washington Correspondent.

Scammers are taking advantage of President Obama’s economic stimulus package to lure unsuspecting consumers into disclosing bank account and credit card information over the Internet, the Federal Trade Commission warned on March 4.

Eileen Harrington, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the scams have “literally mushroomed up overnight.”

Removal of Scam Ads

The FTC is asking online media companies such as Facebook and Google to monitor their sites for scams and to take action to remove them. Facebook has already pulled scam ads, Harrington said, adding that this is a “showcase opportunity” for media companies to take action to protect consumers. “This should be a no-brainer for them,” she said.

Fraudulent E-mail

Scams can take the form of e-mail messages asking for bank account information ostensibly for the purpose of depositing a consumers’ share of stimulus funds into their account. However, the accounts are subsequently drained and the scammers disappear, according to the FTC.

Another scam involves e-mails that appear to be from government agencies and ask for information to verify that the recipient qualifies for a payment. The scammers then commit identity theft with the information. In other instances, scammers send e-mails with links that cause consumers to download malicious software or spyware that can result in identity theft, the agency noted.

Deceptive Websites

The FTC cautioned that many of the websites in question use deceptive names or images of President Obama and Vice President Biden. “Don’t fall for it," said Harrington. "If you do, you’ll get scammed.”

A news release and an archived webcast of the news conference appear here on the FTC website.

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