Government money scams targeting people in Pikes Peak Region
Patrick Nelson is the weekend morning anchor and consumer reporter at KOAA News5; email@example.com
The Gazette, Colorado Springs
LOCAL & STATE
This holiday season, you might get a call, text or email out of the blue saying you qualify for government money. Consumer protection experts say it’s likely a scam, but the fraudsters know it’s a pitch you might be tempted to listen to if you could use some extra cash this time of year. Linda lives in Colorado Springs and sent me an email recently because she wasn’t sure if that call was legitimate. It reads, in part: “… I received a call about a Government Relief Fund that supposedly was from a bill signed by President Biden last year. I am told that I qualified for $14,000.00 that I do not have to pay taxes on or that I do not have to pay back …” This got Linda’s attention, but if she wanted that money the caller said she had to take action. The email continued: “… It will be sent via Western Union Moneygram, but I have to pay $200 for Western Union’s service fee. … I‘m supposed to call when I get to the store so they can tell me what to request and do.” After reading this, I contacted Linda right away and urged her not to pay. I also connected her with an investigator at the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, which believes this has all the signs of a scam. “Scammers often use urgency. Hey, it’s very urgent. This program is shutting down, or it just opened and you want to be one of the first to get in there. I think seniors often fall prey to this scam,” said Paul Myers-bennett at the BBB of Southern Colorado. The Federal Trade Commission says these are the things to know about government money scams: • The government won’t contact you randomly to tell you that you qualify for money that you haven’t applied for. • Don’t ever pay money to get money. This is a red flag that it’s bogus. • Don’t verify personal or banking information. This could provide crooks with what they need to open accounts in your name, or drain your bank account. • If you do realize you paid a scammer, act quickly to try to get that payment reversed. But be aware the crooks often ask for payments through money transfers, cryptocurrency and gift cards to make it difficult to reverse the payments once they happen. Fortunately, we managed to persuade Linda to stop corresponding with the person behind the government money pitch and she didn’t lose any money. It’s a good example of why it’s important to hang up the phone, or step away from that suspicious message and talk to someone you trust about it.