AG Nessel, MDHHS Director Hertel warn residents about Food Assistance scam

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 4:12 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Scammers are now trying to impersonate Michigan’s Food Assistance Program, says Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel.

According to Nessel, scammers are sending texts saying the receiver is eligible to receive food stamps, and all they have to do is click a link, that will then steal the person’s personal information.

A scammer poses as the Michigan Food Assistance Program
A scammer poses as the Michigan Food Assistance Program(Michigan Department of Attorney General)

Nessel says it is not uncommon for scammers to try and impersonate a government agency or resource that provides a legitimate service in an effort to obtain someone’s personal information. The example above is called “smishing.”

While this specific example doesn’t explicitly reference the State, it’s meant to make the recipient think it’s from a trusted source. MDHHS sends texts from a 517 or 800 area code, refers people to websites, and doesn’t use outdated terms such as “food stamps.” MDHHS also does not use text messages to notify people they are eligible for benefits.

“It’s so important for people to recognize a scam like this and avoid giving out personal information that can then be used to steal their identity,” Nessel said. “Bad actors are always looking for new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting Michiganders.”

Here are important reminders to help protect against similar scams:

  • Don’t assume a text is legitimate because it comes from a familiar phone number or area code. Scammers use caller ID Spoofing to make it appear the text is from a trusted or local source.
  • Don’t click on links in suspicious text; they could install malware on your device or take you to a site that does the same.
  • Don’t provide personal or financial information in response to the unsolicited text or at a website linked to the message.
  • Don’t reply, even if the message says you can “text STOP” to avoid more messages. That tells the scammer or spammer your number is active and can be sold to other bad actors.

If you are an AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint or Bell subscriber, you can report spam or smishing texts to your carrier by copying the original text and forwarding it to 7726 (SPAM), free of charge. If you cannot use 7726, you’re able to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Complaints related to government impersonation can also be made to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through its report fraud website.

If you’d like to file a complaint through the Department of Attorney General, you can do so online or by calling 877-765-8388.

Copyright 2021 WILX. All rights reserved.

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