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Scamming the Stimulus

ProPublica | , Sabrina Shankman | 11/17/2009, 11:17 p.m.

Con Men All Around

Today€s roundup of stimulus coverage:
USA Today reports [1] that state and federal officials are fielding thousands of reports of scam artists, many from overseas, using the promise of stimulus money to persuade people to fork over their bank account numbers. While it€s impossible to know how many people have been scammed, the Federal Trade Commission has filed four civil cases this year accusing companies of using fake promises of stimulus money to persuade people to buy products or provide personal information.
The FTC estimates that about 270,000 Americans were victims in these four schemes alone. But criminals aren€t the only ones using this ploy. Enterprising detectives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., turned the tables by mailing letters to people wanted for crimes ranging from failure to pay child support to attempted murder, saying they were eligible for stimulus checks. When 76 of them tried to pick up their checks, they were arrested.

Before releasing its most recent report on stimulus jobs created or saved, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board removed information from 12 stimulus recipients €" eliminating more than 60,000 erroneously reported jobs, according to ABC News [2]. Those jobs were not reflected in the 640,000 jobs that the board reported were created or saved by the stimulus. Representative Dave Obey, D-Wis., slammed the administration for inaccuracy in reporting on Recovery.gov (we€ve written about those inaccuracies here [3]). €Credibility counts in government, and stupid mistakes like this undermine it,€ Obey said in a statement [4].

There€s more talk of a second stimulus, this time coming from analysts with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, reports Dow Jones Newswires [5]. Harold Ford Jr., vice chairman and senior policy adviser at the bank, said that given the lack of jobs in both rural and urban areas and the struggles to balance state budgets, political pressure will rise at the beginning of the year for a second stimulus. €Though they won€t call it a second stimulus,€ he said. €They€ll call it a creative name.€