Beware 'Cash for Clunkers' scams

Government warns consumers to watch out for bogus Web sites claiming to be a part of the government's program.

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By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- President Obama hasn't even signed the "Cash for Clunkers" legislation into law yet, but already criminals and some unscrupulous car dealers are using it to dupe consumers.

The bill, which was passed by Congress last week, will provide $1 billion worth of vouchers to car buyers who replace gas guzzlers with new cars that are more fuel efficient.

Some purported "Cash for Clunkers" Web sites are asking consumers to provide personal information, including names, addresses and social security numbers, so they can "register" for the program, said Patricia Swift-Oladeinde, a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government agency assigned to administer the program.

Other Web sites tell car shoppers they will put them in touch with authorized "Cash for Clunkers" dealers in their area, she said.

Car dealers will have to register to participate in the program, but the registration process has not begun yet, Swift-Oladeinde said. In fact, the NHTSA hasn't even determined how the registration process will work.

There will be no need for consumers to register at all, she said.

NHTSA has set up an official Web site at Cars.gov to provide information about the program. The agency also has a hot-line at 888-327-4236. Consumers can visit that Web site or call the hot-line number to get official information about the program, she said.

One clue that Web sites aren't real is if they use the name "Cash for Clunkers," Swift-Oladeinde said. That is not the real name of the program, which is officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System. To top of page

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