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AG Nessel, MDHHS Director Hertel reissue consumer alert following notice of food assistance scam

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel put out a warning today about a scam related to the State’s Food Assistance Program (FAP).

The automated text, shown below, was sent from the Chicago area. The individual who received the text immediately contacted MDHHS.

In response, the departments are reissuing AG Nessel’s Government Imposter Consumer Alert. Criminals will sometimes impersonate a government agency or resource that provides a legitimate service in an effort to obtain someone’s personal information. When scammers make contact through a text message, it’s called smishing.

While this specific example doesn’t explicitly reference the State, it’s meant to make the recipient think it’s from a trusted source. MDHHS sends texts from a 517 or 800 area code, refers people to Michigan.gov websites, and doesn’t use outdated terms such as “food stamps.” MDHHS does not use text messages to notify people they are eligible for benefits.

Anyone who wants to apply for food assistance or other benefits can do so through the State’s MI Bridges website.

“It’s so important for people to recognize a scam like this and avoid giving out personal information that can then be used to steal their identity,” Nessel said. “Bad actors are always looking for new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting Michiganders. That’s why our Consumer Protection team remains committed to educating people on these types of scams. I appreciate Director Hertel and MDHHS for bringing this to our attention and encourage people to file a complaint if they receive similar messages.”

“Technology is critically important for MDHHS to meet its goal of providing easy access to public assistance benefits,” Hertel said. “However, it also can create opportunities for scammers. I urge people to be on the alert for suspicious emails or texts about public assistance benefits.”

Here are important reminders to help protect against similar scams:

— Don’t assume a text is legitimate because it comes from a familiar phone number or area code. Scammers use caller ID Spoofing to make it appear the text is from a trusted or local source.

— Don’t click on links in suspicious text; they could install malware on your device or take you to a site that does the same.

— Don’t provide personal or financial information in response to the unsolicited text or at a website linked to the message.

— Don’t reply, even if the message says you can “text STOP” to avoid more messages. That tells the scammer or spammer your number is active and can be sold to other bad actors.

If you are an AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint or Bell subscriber, you can report spam or smishing texts to your carrier by copying the original text and forwarding it to 7726 (SPAM), free of charge. If you cannot use 7726, you’re able to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Complaints related to government impersonation can also be made to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through its report fraud website.

If you’d like to file a complaint through the Department of Attorney General, you can do so online or by calling 877-765-8388. 

Your connection to consumer protection is just a click or phone call away. The Department of Attorney General provides a library of resources for consumers to review anytime on a variety of topics.

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