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3/18 EDITORIAL

Beware of scams during downturn

Beware of scams

during downturn

The folks at the Oregon Attorney General's office have been busy the past few weeks sending out news releases warning Oregonians of a number of schemes.

Scam artists are out in force these days, trying to capitalize on our weak economy to take advantage of folks who are looking for a good deal. The problem is many of these offers are too good to be true and are leaving numerous victims in their wake.

One of the current scams involves President Obama's economic stimulus package. According to the Oregon Department of Justice, e-mail messages are sent out in mass asking recipients for bank information so that stimulus money can be directly deposited into their bank account. But scammers use the information to drain bank accounts, providing only themselves with an economic stimulus.

In other instances, e-mails appearing to be from legitimate government agencies ask consumers to verify that they are eligible for stimulus payments. Recipients click on Web links that lead to downloading malicious software that can be used by identity thieves.

Yet other schemes suggest that for as little as $1.99 consumers can get a list of economic stimulus grants to apply for. This allows the scammer to get the consumer's credit card number or lock them into an illegal "negative option" agreement that can charge hundreds of thousands of dollars if the consumer doesn't cancel. Then there is the scam involving seminars on how people can get rich quick through federal stimulus grants.

Another scheme reported last week by Attorney General John Kroger involves offers for free gas and free groceries if you purchase certain products as instructed. The promotions are designed to get consumers to buy products they might not otherwise purchase by offering hundreds of dollars of free groceries or gas. Consumers mail in their receipts and often there is a registration fee involved. Sometimes the scammers will send a small first payment to encourage the consumer to continue participating. But future rewards don't appear even thought the consumer continues to buy the product and mail in their receipts.

And, sadly, the list of scams grows daily and just goes on and on and on.

Con artists like these continue to do what scammers have done for decades: prey on our hopes and fears. And these rough economic conditions make more people vulnerable to their schemes.

Consumers who believe they may have been a victim of any of these or other scams, or who are seeking information on possible scams in the area, can contact the Oregon Attorney General's consumer hotline at 1-877-877-9392. The Oregon Department of Justice Web site, www.doj.state.or.us, also has information available.

The one key point to remember is if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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