By Debbie Burke
Something for nothing is the bait that lures many people to fall for scams. Even more insidious are the ones that promise to solve a bona-fide problem. When there is pending legislation about that problem, the scam becomes even more convincing.
With skyrocketing gas prices, the stage is set for enterprising fraudsters who never let a good crisis go to waste.
Attorney Steve Weisman, creator of Scamicide.com, is consistently on the forefront of new scams that surface faster than lawn mushrooms after a rain. (His alerts have spawned several True Crime Thursday posts and he graciously agreed to be quoted again.)
The latest scam he highlighted is the Federal Fuel Relief Program.
Except there is no such program.
The FTC reports an uptick in calls, emails, and texts supposedly from government representatives who offer rebates or relief checks to soften the impact of high gas prices.
According to Steve: “All you need do, they tell you, is provide some personal and financial information in order to be eligible for the program.”
Sounds simple, right? Simple for scammers to steal your information to commit further fraud.
Why do people continue to fall for these tricks? Because it’s increasingly confusing to parse out actual facts from the news/rumor mill.
It’s even more difficult when some municipalities are in fact paying out such rebates, as described in this article on GoBankingRates.com:
The city of Chicago has already started issuing some of the 50,000 prepaid $150 gas cards and 100,000 prepaid $50 transit cards approved by the city council.
North Carolina and California have pending legislation for similar measures. Californians could qualify for up to $1050 in relief.
The proposed Gas Rebate Act of 2022 is currently being discussed in the U.S House of Representatives, potentially with payments of $100/month or higher to qualified households during every month that average gas prices are above $4/gallon.
Whether these or other proposals pass is up in the air. Some end up only being hot air.
But people often assume they’ve gone into effect. Next thing they know, that friendly, helpful “government employee” calls up, offering to expedite the process. Just verify your Social Security number and bank account number so they can direct-deposit the rebate.
Steve’s tagline is “Trust me, you can’t trust anybody.” That includes the caller ID that claims the IRS or Social Security is on the line or a link in an official-looking email or text that takes you to a fraudulent site masquerading as a government agency.
Scammers continue to refine their tactics and grow ever more sophisticated and convincing with their frauds.
Warn family and friends, particularly seniors who are prime targets, NEVER to give out personal information when someone calls, emails, or texts, without first verifying the sender is legitimate.
The Federal Fuel Relief Program is pure flatulence. The only relief is to hang up or hit delete.
TKZers: What’s the latest scam you or someone you know has been targeted by?
Feel free to share horror stories. The more we know, the less likely we are to be victimized.
Please check out my thriller Stalking Midas about a glamorous con artist who targets an addled millionaire with nine feral cats.