Food stamp scams lure neediest Floridians
FORT MYERS-- Fort Myers Mom Vanessa Bush began applying for food stamps three months ago.
"The first time I was looking to apply in Florida and I didn't know what it was called," explained Bush, who moved here from France 12 years ago. "I just go online and put down food stamps and a lot of different websites would come up,"
Navigating the state's site proved difficult. The fake ones seemed real.
"Some of them seemed like it was the right thing, added Bush. "You had to apply, put your name, number and they'd be calling you."
Bush found her way to the correct website but others may not be as lucky. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is issuing fraud alerts to anyone signing up for food stamps for the first time.
"We don't want people out there thinking that they have to pay to get assistance that they're entitled to," said Kim Kutch, the circuit development administrator, with DCF.
DCF and the US Department of Agriculture are warning citizens about a dozen suspicious websites targeting those who search for "Florida food stamps", including foodstampsnetwork.net., getfoodstampsnow.org,and govbenefitsonline.org.
"There are no legitimate places out there that would ever ask you for your personal information, as well as a credit card to help you apply for food stamp benefits," explained Kutch.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also filed contempt charges against Sam Sky, 42, of Fort Myers, for selling $99 food stamp application guides.
"Once again, that is fraudulent," said Kutch, about Sky's charges.
So, save your money and protect your identity. There's only ONE right way to apply for food stamps.
"They should not be going to any other website online," added Kutch. "It should be the Department of Children and Family's website to apply for assistance."
GABRIELLE SARANN - firstname.lastname@example.org