February 1, 2006
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon wants Missouri consumers not to be fooled by con artists offering government grant money over the phone. Missourians are calling Nixon’s Consumer Protection Hotline every day to report the identity theft scam.
Consumers are called and told they have won a grant from the federal government but need to pay a fee of approximately $5. The caller asks the consumer for bank account information to collect the fee. There is no grant, Nixon said, and the consumer finds that a much larger amount of money has been withdrawn from the account.
"This is yet another scam where a con artist tries to get people to let their guard down and give up their personal information," Nixon said. "Consumers should never give up Social Security or account numbers unless they have initiated the contact and know they’re dealing with a legitimate organization."
Nixon says other common scams to get personal information include scaring consumers into believing there are problems with their bank account, usually via email. Fraudulent e-mails like this are often referred to as "phishing" scams.
Nixon also warned in November that con artists are calling consumers, threatening arrest for their alleged failure to report for jury duty. Some frightened consumers are then tricked into giving up their personal information, hoping to clear their name.
In another example of an identity theft scam, consumers have reported calls claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, in which the scammer announces that the consumer qualifies for a speedy tax refund and asks for bank account information.
Missourians should never divulge their personal information to an unknown caller, Nixon says. Instead, they should hang up and report the call to his Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 or obtain a complaint form off his Web site, www.ago.mo.gov.
Nixon says Missouri’s No Call law has helped reduce not only unwanted telemarketing calls but also telemarketing fraud. Residents not yet on the Attorney General’s No Call list can sign up online by going to www.ago.mo.gov or by calling toll-free 1-866-NOCALL 1 (1-866-662-2551).