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THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Avoiding scam artists

The president's stimulus package has opened a Pandora's box of fraudulent opportunities. Gerri gives her tips on how to avoid being taken in.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The federal government's plan to revive the ailing economy is stimulating business already - for con artists at least.

As soon as the stimulus bill was passed last month, scam artists were hard at work trying to devise a way to get your money.

The Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau and Federal Bureau of Investigation are warning people about scams related to the stimulus. One scam involves an ad that says you can order a CD or an "easy grant solution kit" that will show you how to get thousands of dollars in government grants. But, of course, it's not free. And your credit card could be charged repeatedly.

Here's another scam that's tripping people up as we wade through tax season this year: e-mails claiming to be from the IRS saying you're owed a tax refund. Here's an example of an e-mail that was sent to a CNN-staffer:

"After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Tax refund value is $189.60. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to IWP the data received."

Remember the IRS does not e-mail taxpayers with requests for personal information, and does it doesn't ask for bank account or other personal information by phone.

Scam artists are really crawling out of the woodwork everywhere you turn - be it work-at-home scams, tax scams, mortgage fraud or foreclosure scams.

You really need to be vigilant now.

If you have been contacted by a scam artist, make sure you file a complaint.

Here's where you should go: The Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov; the Federal Bureau of Investigation at IC3.gov and the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org.

Got a question about jobs or unemployment? We want to hear from you. Send us an email and a picture and your question could be answered in an upcoming story on CNNMoney.com. To top of page

Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send an e-mail,we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com.
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