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State reports rise in debt relief scams

The state attorney general's office announced Tuesday that there has been an increase in the number of complaints from victims of financial scams.

Attorney General Jack Conway said investigators within the Consumer Protection Division have been receiving several calls per day from consumers just wanting to report contacts from suspicious companies, according to a news release from Conway's office.

"While more Kentuckians are unfortunately facing layoffs during the economic downturn, scam artists are working overtime to prey on people's fears and trick debt-ridden consumers into paying money for bogus debt-relief services or non-existent government grants," Conway said in the release.

The attorney general's office said some bogus debt-relief companies have left individuals messages, saying "it appears that you qualify for a $1,000 advance. If you call today, you will get first priority status."

A staff member at the attorney general's office called the 866 number and was greeted with profanity. The call was then escalated to a supervisor to process the request.

Conway's office said the number appears to ring into an offshore boiler room. The supervisor indicated someone would call back to explain the program.

Conway said in the release that "bogus calls are being reported to my office regularly."

"Consumers report that they obtained information from the Internet on free government grants or stimulus payments, or received unsolicited telephone calls," he said. "Consumers should not respond to the offers, nor should they complete online forms in order to qualify for the so-called 'free grants.'"

Conway said "these could be efforts by con artists to steal credit card information, to make unauthorized charges, or to steal personal information to further victimize the consumer with identity theft."

The attorney general implored consumers not to respond to these calls or other calls offering foreclosure relief.