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Con artists target families struggling through pandemic with new phishing scheme

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ There’s no question that families across the country are struggling right now due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning of a phishing scheme that targets that vulnerability.

The scheme, according to Paula Fleming of BBB, involves what’s being called the “Global Empowerment Fund,” however, no such government fund exists. Fleming said this scheme has been reported in New England.

“Con artists are pretending to be government officials offering grant money from a fund that does not exist,” Fleming said.

Fleming said the message comes through either social media or via text message and appears to be from a friend or someone claiming to be with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“They’re even savvy enough to have very legitimate looking websites,” Fleming said.

Fleming said the message claims you will receive money from the supposed “Global Empowerment Fund.”

“The recipient is required to respond to the message with banking information and the funds will be transferred to it,” she said. “Do not provide your personal and banking information, whether it’s via text message or social media, if you don’t know who is on the other end.

In response to the scheme, the FTC emphasized that their office won’t contact anyone by phone, email or text.

“They’ll stop at nothing — not even a pandemic — to trick you into sharing your personal or financial information,” the FTC said in a statement.

“The government will reach you with official documentation in the mail, so that’s what you should look out for,” Fleming continued.

If you feel you’ve fallen victim to the scheme, report it through the BBB’s Scam Tracker.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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