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Schemes that Charge Money for free Govt. Services

A variety of false representation schemes involve mailed solicitations that offer for a fee certain services available free of charge from the government. Often the company's name and mailing design deceptively imply that the company is or has ties to a government agency. If you receive such a solicitation, you should call the government agency that maintains the information being sold by the promoter and ask if it is available for free from that agency. Beware of the following schemes that fall into this category:

Child support collection scheme. Advertises assistance to custodial parents in collecting delinquent child support payments. Anyone needing such assistance should contact their local district attorney's office or other government agency that monitors and enforces payment of child support.

Schemes involving Social Security. Offers various social security services, including obtaining social security numbers for newborn children, obtaining statements of personal earnings and benefit estimates, and notifying the Social Security Administration of name changes for new brides. Anyone needing these services should contact the SSA, which provides them at no cost.

Unclaimed income tax refund scheme. Tells consumers they may be the recipient of unclaimed federal income tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. Consumers are led to believe the promoter will conduct individualized searches, but no searches are done after the consumer pays the required fees. Consumers who think unclaimed federal income tax refund checks are being held for them need only contact the IRS. If there is a check, the IRS will reissue it.

Unclaimed funds scheme. Promises to assist consumers in obtaining unclaimed funds held by state and other agencies. Some promoters state there "may" be money held in the consumer's name just to get the consumer to pay a fee for a search. Other promoters get lists from agencies holding funds, contact persons on the lists, and offer to get their money for them for "finders' fees." Unclaimed funds held by state and other agencies are available to consumers at no cost directly from the state or other agency holding the funds.

Property tax exemption scheme. Advertises assistance to homeowners in obtaining property tax exemptions in California. Such tax exemptions are available from the local county tax assessor's office at no cost to a homeowner upon completion of a simple form.

If you have been victimized in one of these schemes, or if you have received a suspicious solicitation in the mail, report your experience to your local postmaster or nearest Postal Inspector.