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Wednesday
Nov232011

Fake Food Stamp Websites Prey on Poor

Photodisc/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- In a new twist on Internet scams, federal officials say people desperate for government assistance are being taken in by food stamp sites that promise to get them benefits.

Phony websites complete with data, current food stamp news, and information submission pages have been flagged by the Florida Department of Children and Families and the U.S Department of Agriculture.

Joe Follick, communications director for the Florida Department of Children and Families, tells ABC News the scam was first brought to their attention last year when an applicant said they stumbled across a website that allegedly required a fee in exchange for information on applying for food stamp benefits, now known as the national SNAP program – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Soon after some dozen websites including getfoodstampsnow.org, govbenefitsonline.org, and foodstampsnetwork.net as well as many pop up ads tied to Google searches with phrases such as "Florida food stamps" were discovered. The Florida Department of Children and Families along with the U.S Department of Agriculture oversees and funds the national food stamp program – SNAP. Both government agencies contacted the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General's Office and alerted them about these sites.

With over 45 million Americans depending on government food aid from SNAP, the Florida Department of Children and Families says the only way to apply for these benefits is directly through their state's department website or through local government assistance agencies. It's the same procedure in all 50 states.

Florida currently has over 3.2 million residents receiving food stamps -- that's 1 in 6 Floridians. The rate of increase has slowed but there has been an increase since last year nonetheless.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center which works in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White collar Crime Center has not received complaints of such food stamp websites, but they urge people to go to their website and be clear and thorough when providing information so that the FBI can establish trends and provide public awareness guidance on scam alerts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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