Consumer Alert: BBB: Be aware of scams involving economic impact funds, utilities

Published: May. 10, 2020 at 11:05 AM CDT
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Consumer advocates are warning to not let financial stress open the door to scammers.

Many people waiting for stimulus money or applying for loans are targets.

In a Consumer First Alert, we’re looking into why it’s important to fact check before you give out any information, as people wait for economic impact money.

“This is really the perfect environment for scammers to thrive,” says Susan Bach of Wisconsin’s Better Business Bureau (BBB). “These scammers are really just capitalizing on the confusion around these payments.”

Bach, who is the regional director for the state’s BBB, says scammers will convince you they’ll help you get that money quicker.

“We're getting a lot of complaints in our scam tracker portal from consumers who are telling us they received text messages, emails, phone calls, from people claiming to be the gov't maybe it's FEMA, Small Business Administration, the IRS saying they can help them get their stimulus check, or their loan, they just need some up-front money or they need some account info or your social security number to help you or verify, we know that these are scams, because the government does not reach out to people in that manner,” adds Bach.]

She says the Wisconsin BBB doesn’t have any reports of anyone losing money to a stimulus scam, but they are continuing to warn people.

"They're having people pay with payment apps over the phone or on their smart phone, we just know the government doesn’t work that way - they're not going to text you, they're not going to have you pay over Zelle or anything like that, or buy gift cards."

In addition to warnings about stimulus money scams, the BBB is also receiving reports about utility scam calls.

WE Energies shared one call with customers to warn them about the scam, saying the scammers are using fake names, claiming to be supervisors.

The call includes the following:

"This is the notifications department with WE Energies. You have an automatic interruption of service in the next 30 – 45 minutes.”

The company says people in the Appleton and Milwaukee areas have lost thousands of dollars in the past week, adding they’ve received more than 200 reports of this particular scam.

Utility companies aren’t disconnecting service during the COVID-19 pandemic.