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DCF warns about public assistance fraud

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The Department of Children and Families is concerned with websites that seek personal information to help fill out applications for public assistance benefits.

DCF public information officer John Harrell said the department is concerned that these websites are scams that could make unauthorized purchases on credit cards, access bank accounts or steal clients’ identities.

“We just don’t like seeing these scam artists take advantage of people who are struggling,” he said.

DCF press secretary Erin Gillespie said the DCF has received several calls in the past week about people who have had to give their credit card information.

“We just want people to know that you never have to provide that kind of information to apply for public assistance, like food stamps,” she said.

Gillespie said these paid advertisement websites can look official and have mimicked the DCF logo before.

Asking for information is not illegal, Gillespie said, but using the data for fraudulent activity is.

She said she did not know if the information taken by these sites has been used fraudulently.

“Our clients generally don’t have extra money lying around,” she said. “We want them to know not to be fooled by these websites.”

Harrell said scams have been around for decades, but the Internet has made it easier to get this kind of information.

The official DCF website never asks for personal information like credit card numbers, Harrell said. People who think their information has been compromised should contact local law enforcement.

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