If you have been contacted by someone claiming to be from CDFA or another government agency, be advised that this is a scam. The criminals may also use the identities of one of your friends to trick you into thinking they've received money and you can too. Some potential victims are targeted through Facebook Instant Messenger; others received text messages or phone calls.
CDFA, a quasi-state agency which operates only within the State of New Hampshire, does not make financial awards to individuals anywhere in the country. Nor would we ask you to send us money for any reason.
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from con artists while online.
1. If it sounds too good to be true...
Yes, it's a cliché...but it's correct. We'd all like to think someone wants to give us money for nothing, but it’s almost always a trick designed to take your money for nothing. If it smells fishy, don’t take the bait.
2. That person who’s your online friend may actually be an imposter.
One way online crooks build trust is to pose as someone the target knows. They begin by hacking into a person’s account and – instead of robbing this person – they message everyone in the person’s contact list. Why would you doubt your friend when they give you such great news? But always keep rule #1 in mind: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
An even more brazen is scam is when the criminals pose as cyber-crime investigators asking victims to contact them. They’re looking for another bite at the apple. Don’t be fooled.
3. That website or Facebook profile may also be a fake.
It’s extremely easy to set up a Facebook profile claiming to be an official-looking organization. You just copy the logo and put in a head shot, and you’re in business. Crooks can create multiple fake profiles, all running the same scam at the same time. Once they’re detected and Facebook shuts them down, they just create a new site and start all over.
You don’t have to look closely to spot a fake profile. Usually the quality of the graphics is poor, it may have only been created a few weeks ago, and (because many of these con men are overseas) their posts are often in broken English.
4. Don’t send money or provide personal or financial information.
Most scammers get your money by telling you that you’ve won a large amount of cash – you just need first to pay for the taxes or some other fee. They may request you use Western Union or use Facebook Messenger’s “send money” feature. They may also ask for your bank account routing number to put the money “in” your account. Once you pay the “taxes,” they’ll disappear, along with your money.
Some con artists posing as “officials” will ask you to prove your identity to ensure they’ve located the proper “winner.” To do this, they’ll ask you to provide some personal or financial information, like your date of birth or social security number (pretending they already know what it is). Never give anyone you don't know that kind of information on the phone or online.
5. If you’ve been taken, contact your local law enforcement agency.
These criminals have been running their scams for a long time and some get very good at it. Don’t be embarrassed if a professional con man pulled a fast one on you. Contacting your local police, sheriff, or state consumer protection agency may help prevent them from targeting someone else.
Some other government resources include:
CDFA will be conducting application writing workshops for the CDBG Microenterprise Program.