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Strain warns against scam artists
July 29, 2009
Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said the recent announcement of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry-administered $44.5 million Farm and Agribusiness Recovery Program has brought out a number of con artists making claims that they can help farmers and other consumers get government grants and funds.
“Any organization that sends unsolicited notes claiming they can get you government grant money if a fee is paid is most likely operating a scam,” Strain said. “We know that many farming families are feeling the economic crunch right now and they may be wooed by claims of free money, but I urge them to thoroughly investigate any organization that makes such offers.”
Strain said many scam artists use official looking seals and stationery on their mailings which make them appear to have been sent from government offices.
The mailings may ask the consumer to call an 800 number if interested. Once called, the answering operator asks for a debit card number to charge your account in exchange for government publications that can otherwise be obtained for free.
“Do not ever give your credit card or debit card numbers to a phone or mail solicitor,” Strain said.
Strain said the LDAF is administering a $44.5 million Farm and Agribusiness Recovery grant and loan program to help farmers, ranchers and other agribusiness professionals recover from damage caused by the storms of 2008.
“The LDAF is in the process of sending out information packets free of charge on how to apply for this program,” Strain said.
The deadline to apply for the programs is August 21, 2009.
Strain said that anyone who wants to report a scam or thinks they may be a victim of a scam should contact the state Consumer Protection Section at 225-326-6465 or 800-351-4889 and their local Better Business Bureau. Strain also offered these tips to better protect yourself from consumer fraud:
· Be wary of anything that sounds “too good to be true.”
· Avoid high pressure sales tactics.
· Ask questions.
· Investigate offers made to you as a contest “winner.”
· Check out price claims yourself.
· Ignore “once in a lifetime” offers.
Consumers may also visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Website at www.ftc.gov for information on consumer protection.