Unofficial Food Stamps Websites Scam Florida Residents
How do you know if a website is an official page of state government? Must it end in .gov or .state.us? Residents in Florida, while searching for a way to apply for food stamps online, are stumbling onto websites that may appear to be extensions of the food stamps program but instead engage in activites that include collecting credit card numbers and charging individuals for guides that instruct Floridians on how to game the program, sometimes illegally, to signing them up for various marketing email lists.
A simple search for "Florida Food Stamps" in Google, for example, yields the following advertisment:
Even though the website "Florida Food Stamps" with the url www.foodstampnetwork.net/florida says in its headline "Apply for FL Food Stamps Online," it is not the government online portal through which to do that.
Instead, what the site actually does is more nefarious. As the website states in an "About" section hidden on a small link at the bottom of the landing page:
Who are we?
The Food Stamps Network team works with advertisers from around the country that are selling a variety of products and services to help people with their financial woes. Working on behalf of these advertisers, we aim to deliver you relevant content through marketing mediums such as email. Over the course of the next few weeks, you will receive promotional email messages discussing ways in which you can improve your financial situation through our advertising partners products. We hope you find our efforts useful.
In other words, the website signs you up for a spam list.
To help residents navigate this confusing landscape, The Department of Children & Families has developed a list of websites to avoid, including the example above. The Federal Trade Commission has also filed lawsuits against some of these websites. Stay tuned to this blog for the latest updates on this effort.