Katrina victims awaiting money from the LRA need to be on the lookout for a scam that promises to speed up the process, according to the FBI.
James Bernazzani, the local FBI Chief says the scam works like this: People receive a call or an e-mail identifying the sender as a U.S. federal employee with the Grant Processing Office and they are told they can receive an interest-free advance on their LRA money as long as they promise to pay it back when the money comes in.
For a fee of about $299 the group will send them a check for thousands of dollars. Bernazzani says the catch is that there is no Grant Processing Office. He said what is worse is that victims are asked to cover the $299 fee by giving their credit card number, which then gives the con artist access to drain their account.
"Basically they have stolen your identity," he said. "They'll run up the charges on your credit card and bleed the money out of your bank account."
According to Bernazzani, the scam has already nabbed some local people, though he couldn't give specific numbers.
He also said a similar scam, known as phishing, is also siphoning off funds. He said that kind of scam comes when an e-mail is sent from what looks to be a legitimate bank or financial institution.
The e-mail often says that there is a problem with that person's account and that the should go to a web site and provide information to have it fixed. Once again, Bernazzani says the con artists get access to your vital information.
"The problem is that it's not the bank and when you provide that banking information, they've stolen your identity and they've bled the account."
Bernazzani says you shouldn't respond to any request for personal information that you didn't solicit yourself.