U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today alerted Mainers to unscrupulous people who are seeking to take advantage of others during these troubled economic times for their own financial gain. Scam artists are using the economic stimulus package, meant to help those who are struggling, as a weapon to target the unsuspecting.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are sending emails appearing to come from the government that tell recipients they are eligible for stimulus funding or government grants if they provide personal information, such as bank account numbers. Others have set up websites claiming to sell grant information or provide other mechanisms for accessing stimulus funds – both scams also seek personal information. The scam artists then use this personal information to withdraw funds or steal a person’s identity. Not all scams ask for personal information. Some of these emails and websites contain links that, if accessed, could download malicious spyware to a user’s computer and send that user’s personal information to the scam artist without the user’s knowledge.

“It is unfortunate there are bad apples out there that are willing to take advantage of others during these difficult economic times,” said Senator Collins. “During a financial crisis, people may be more vulnerable to deceptive practices that seem to offer hope. Instead, these scams often leave the victims facing a far worse financial predicament, making it more difficult for them to recover financially. Furthermore, con artists not only rob their victims of money but also their pride. Everyone should take extreme caution if they we receive any email from an unknown source or visit a website that asks for personal information.”

Anyone who receives a suspicious offer regarding the economic stimulus package should contact local law enforcement immediately. They can also report it to the FTC at or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC works with local law enforcement to stop and prevent such scams.

Earlier this month, Senator Collins and Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-D CT) held the first of a series of planned oversight hearings to examine how the federal government will ensure accountability and transparency for stimulus funding and help eliminate wasteful and fraudulent practices that could blunt the economic impact of the funding.