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New phone scam offers government money with no strings attached

A new phone scam circulating in mid-Missouri involved a caller saying people are eligible for money from the government.

ABC17 News got the call back number from a viewer and called back.

The caller said because of financial difficulties, we had qualified for a $9,000 donation from the government.

“Not a loan, not a mortgage, this is not an educational grant,” the caller said. “This is a one time in a life time financial support given out by the federal government to the loyal citizens.”

At first, the caller said there was no need to give any personal information over the phone, but eventually it became clear that the group was looking for it.

“If you want to make a direct deposit we’ll be needing your account number,” the called said. “If you want to direct transfer to your card, we’ll be needing your card number.”

When ABC17 News came right out and asked if it was a scam, the caller hung up.

Sean Spence with the Better Business Bureau said that’s a classic example of a scam.

Scammers identify people they think are easy targets.

“They’re counting on desperate people who will take big chances in the hopes of getting some sort of return,” he said.

And the scammers can get that information from anywhere.

“You can basically buy a list of just about any kind of person that you want,” Spence explained. “You can buy a list, you can find it on the internet.”

If the government does want to give out some sort of financial assistance, there is probably paperwork involved.

“A government agency is essentially never going to ask you for your financial information over the phone,” he said.

Spence said if you get a call you think is suspicious, start asking questions or fighting back.

“Most scams won’t stand up to very much scrutiny at all,” he said.

If someone does fall for a scam, Spence said to start changing passwords or switching bank accounts, so the scammers can no longer access that information.

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