CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Better Business Bureau is issuing an alert about fliers being displayed and distributed in Cleveland that claim to offer various forms of assistance.
Fliers for Full Circle Fund first came to BBB’s attention last week when a consumer was given one while at Tower City. Another consumer recently saw one posted at a local restaurant.
Full Circle Fund’s flier lists several services offered, including food and clothing vouchers, credit card repayment program, child day care vouchers, employment, computer training, appliance vouchers and other items.
A phone number, 216-236-3446, is listed for information. Callers are told to provide a Social Security number and other personal information and given a 72-hour waiting period to determine if they are eligible.
One consumer told BBB he was instructed to provide the name of an alternate person to apply because he was already receiving government assistance. After waiting 72 hours, he called Full Circle Fund and was told he didn’t qualify for benefits.
BBB contacted Full Circle Fund posing as prospective client. Emani Davis, who identified herself as the Intake Manager, asked our shopper to provide a Social Security number. She was told that, since she was not already receiving benefits, she could provide an alternate person who was and “piggyback” on their application. Davis claimed Full Circle Fund received its funding from the government and referral agencies.
Davis also claimed Full Circle Fund was a national organization based in Kansas. BBB could find no record of Full Circle Fund and an official of United Way 211 told BBB they had no record of the organization locally. BBB’s calls to the organization to obtain more information were not returned.
Fliers distributed by Full Circle Fund are strikingly similar to those used by Ohio Advantage Program in 2008 and 2010. Ohio Advantage Program also distributed fliers and offered an identical list of available services.
Ohio Advantage Program was operated by Darnell Nash. Nash, who also used the name, Santina Gibbs, instructed hopeful recipients to meet at community centers or library meeting rooms. Nash collected sensitive private information such as Social Security numbers, birth certificates, utility bills, bank account information and copies of driver’s licenses. Participants were told they could qualify for $500 in home assistance right away and $4,500 more in coming months, so long as their household income was under a certain level.
He was indicted in 2008 in Summit County on charges of attempted identity fraud and petty theft stemming from Ohio Advantage activities. He later pleaded guilty on May 18, 2009, to both charges and was sentenced to 180 days (concurrently) in jail for each count. The sentence was suspended.
BBB cautions consumers to not divulge Social Security numbers, account numbers and other personal information to Full Circle Fund or any unfamiliar organization.
“There are plenty of legitimate non-profit organizations that will not ask you for personal information over the phone,” said BBB president David Weiss, “and will help you manage your budget and debt. Scammers often use the promise of government grants or other financial assistance as a ploy to get personal information and use it to steal identities.
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