Contact 2: Scammers targeting your identity, government COVID relief programs

Contact 2

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Mo. – When it comes to the mail, looks can be deceiving. Just ask Franklin County resident Nicole Birkmann.

“This has my name on it. It has my address. It says the word ‘farm.’ I don’t own a farm. I don’t have a small business,” Birkmann said.

Which is why she figured a letter saying she’d been granted a Small Business Administration Disaster Loan was junk mail; albeit official-looking junk mail.

“I didn’t request a disaster loan. I did not apply for this money. I have not received this money,” Birkmann said.

But when September turned to October and then November, the letters continued to come.

“I realized these aren’t going to stop and I probably need to look into it further,” Birkmann said.

Better Business Bureau investigator Rebecca Phoenix said if this has happened to you, it’s likely someone has already applied for a loan in your name.

Phoenix said local consumers like Nicole are being victimized by scammers applying for fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other CARES Act funds in their names.

“I think it’s roughly $78 billion represented in those applications that went to potentially fraudulent or illegible applicants,” she said.

Phoenix said the FBI is investigation some of these cases. In a statement, authorities at the FBI St. Louis office say, “Catching fraud as soon as it happens not only increases the likelihood of catching the scammers, it also limits their ability to further exploit your stolen identity.”

“You need to keep track of the documentation until you have a final decision reached,” Phoenix said. “In the meantime, you could be receiving text messages or emails or other contacts about the payment and these could potentially be from scammers as well, so don’t give them any personal or financial information.”

The Small Business Administration is also investigating. A spokesperson for the agency says, “Coordinated efforts with federal partners help strengthen internal controls to mitigate the occurrence of fraud occurring in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program.”

“it’s a sad situation but they are investigating it. I just wanted to make sure people were aware that this is happening,” Birkmann said.

There’s hope Birkmann won’t be held responsible for the fraudulent loan opened in her name. We’ll keep track of her case. This isn’t the first time her identity was stolen.

If you’ve been an identity theft victim, you’re likely more vulnerable to fraud. The BBB recommends monitoring your credit report and taking any letter like Birkmann received seriously.

To obtain information, or to report a scam, contact members of the Task Force.

  • Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern and Southwest Missouri and Southern Illinois – (888) 996-3887; bbb.org
  • Federal Trade Commission – (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357); ftc.gov
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations – (314) 589-2500
  • Illinois Attorney General – (800) 243-0618; illinoisattorneygeneral.gov
  • Illinois Secretary of State – Securities Department – 800-628-7937
  • Missouri Attorney General – (800) 392-8222; ago.mo.gov
  • St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department – (314) 231-1212; slmpd.org
  • U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Missouri – (314) 539-2200; www.usdoj.gov/usao/moe
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service – (877) 876-2455; postalinspectors.uspis.gov
  • U.S. Secret Service – (314) 539-2238; secretservice.gov

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Contact 2 has resolved consumer complaints totaling millions of dollars over the years. Those cases have not only brought peace of mind to the consumers who asked Contact 2 for help, but also shed light on allegations of deception and wrongdoing levied against businesses, contractors and government agencies.

Our team focuses on gathering the facts about what happened. The process involves seeking out both sides of the story. It’s not always what consumers want to hear, but we have an obligation to be fair to the entity accused of causing the problem. Working to clearly understand the details is an important part of the job. Sometimes these cases can be resolved quickly. Other times, Contact 2 will spend weeks or months getting to the bottom of the problem. We appreciate the patience of those who’ve asked us to help them.

While dealing with the complaints of individual consumers is a big part of the job for Contact 2, we’re also dedicated to informing consumers of the latest scams, rip-offs and fraud schemes. Technology has made it easier than ever for criminals to target consumers. Contact 2 monitors reports of this activity around the world to help arm the public with tools to protect their personal information and hard- earned money. We share that information with consumers on-air and online.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.

Report scams and rip-offs


Have a question for the FOX 2 Contact 2 team? If you have an issue with scams, bad customer service or getting ripped off then our reporters will investigate.

 

Call the Contact 2 hotline Monday to Thursday from 11am-1pm at 1-800-782-2222

 

Fill out this form.

Popular

Latest News

More News