CONSUMER FRAUD ALERT - Fake Recession Stimulus Payments

January 22, 2009

Consumers should be aware of a new scam being circulated via email. While the federal government is debating government stimulus payments to fight our economic recession, the IRS is not sending citizens e-mails announcing that you are eligible to receive a stimulus payment.

These emails are a scam, and should be deleted from your inbox, warns Attorney General Janet Mills’s Consumer Protection Division. This email scam uses current events to try and confuse you. The e-mail asks you to download a “Stimulus Payment Form,” fill it out, and return it to the sender. This is a fake IRS e-mail is just the latest version of a scam designed to get you to disclose personal financial information.

Phishing scammers often try to take advantage of recent events in order to trick you into believing that the e-mail or letter or phone call you receive asking for personal information is legitimate. For example, there have been recent reports that Heartland Payment Systems, which processes credit cards for thousands of restaurants, retailers and other businesses, has been the victim of a nationwide data theft. This means you should now be on the look-out for scammers trying to take advantage of any confusion. For example, watch out for official-looking e-mails or phone calls warning you that your credit cards have been compromised and you need to immediately provide personal information, so your funds will not be cut off. Ignore such messages. Banks do not ask for your personal information over the phone or by e-mail or by any other way. Banks already possess that information.