We advise all readers, as well as their friends and family, to beware of Facebook ads that promise a "stimulus" or "savings" for homeowners in the amount of $3,600, $3,700, $3,712, $3,800, or another similar dollar figure. The posts featured pictures of U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and members of Congress, among others. Some ads also mentioned the term, "mortgage refinance stimulus."
The ads gave the appearance that Biden and the U.S. government voted through a plan to provide $3,600, $3,700, $3,712, $3,800, or another similar amount of money as a "stimulus" or "savings" in the form of check payments to help homeowners. The pictures and text perhaps looked and felt similar to the previous COVID-19 economic impact payments and child tax credit payments that Americans became familiar with in 2020 and 2021. Those genuine payments came directly from the Internal Revenue Service.
However, there is no federal plan to distribute $3,600, $3,700, $3,712, or $3,800 "stimulus" or "savings" checks to homeowners.
Facebook users who clicked on the ads were led to websites that were not operated by the government. From there, they all appeared to lead to a central page: GovHomePrograms.com. This website included a brief survey that asked questions about finances, home value, and mortgage status. The forms also asked for a name, email address, phone number, and mailing address.
We filled out the forms and were then led to one or more lenders that could help future homeowners to buy a house or current homeowners to refinance a mortgage. There was no evidence that the Facebook ads led to a way for homeowners to obtain a $3,600, $3,700, $3,712, or $3,800 "stimulus" or "savings" payment from the government.
One page led to EnhancedRefiNow.com instead of GovHomePrograms.com. Its parent company appeared to be LMB Mortgage Services, Inc., also known as LowerMyBills.com.
As of December 2021, at least eight Facebook pages named American Savings Tips, Wise American Solution, Clever American Choices, New American Community, US Relief, StraightFix, Homeowners of America, and Our Best American Life had spent around $200,000 on advertising since late October to promote the ads. One of the biggest spenders was Wise American Solution, which had spent nearly $60,000 alone in early December, as of Dec. 13.
In other words, at least millions of Facebook users had been served the ads from these pages on Facebook or Instagram.
The Facebook pages and their corresponding websites were all brand new and were created in either October or November 2021. Another page named Helpers Today also pushed similar ads about a "stimulus" or "savings" for homeowners.
Several hours after we started investigating Clever American Choices, its Facebook page became unavailable. It's unclear why this happened within those few hours and not at any time in previous weeks. According to its advertising information, Clever American Choices was "deleted" after violating Facebook's advertising policies. It had spent at least $45,209 on Facebook ads between Nov. 21 and Dec. 7. The other pages also showed advertising violations.
$10 Billion in Assistance
After we clicked on one of the Facebook ads and landed on a website, we noticed this message at the bottom: "THIS IS AN ADVERTORIAL AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE."
We also found a list of "disclaimers" in small print spaced far below the end of most of the body of the page that was meant "for Facebook reviewers and 3rd party fact checkers."
One of the lines attempted to clarify why words like "government" and "Biden" were used in the copy:
5. "Government" , "Biden" , "New Administration" , "Relief" - assume multiple citations below from the following article:
"Biden's $10 billion in financial assistance is expected to be available in 2022."
It's true that the Biden administration previously created a Homeowners Assistance Fund that's meant to "provide states with $10 billion to help struggling homeowners catch up on their mortgage payments and utility costs." It's also true that the assistance was still being given out by various states as of November 2021. But nowhere in this plan did we find anything about a $3,600, $3,700, $3,712, or $3,800 "stimulus" or "savings" plan for homeowners in the same way that past stimulus checks worked, as the Facebook ads appeared to hint at.
One of the posts on Clever American Choices originally read: "This was featured on FoxNews [sic] last night. All I did was enter my zip and now I'm getting $3,600 back in savings. It was free to check, Just Enter Zip!"
A seemingly endless number of Facebook users then submitted their ZIP codes in the comments under the ads instead of on the resulting website, perhaps believing this would lead to them being contacted to receive a $3,600 check.
Aside from the ZIP code comments, the remarks with the most likes caught our eye. For example, a user named Jackie said: "This was featured in CNN yesterday so I guess I could try it since my neighbors already got theirs." Other ads mentioned C-SPAN.
We found no record of CNN, Fox News, or C-SPAN recently broadcasting news of a specific $3,600, $3,700, $3,712, or $3,800 "stimulus" or "savings" for homeowners. Also, no one's "neighbors already got" a $3,600 stimulus check payment, because they don't exist.
Ben commented: "Wow! I've never seen anything like this before! Thank god that I saw it today so I can signup."
Matt remarked: "Heard about this program form [sic] my neighbor. They got the check yesterday so I tried it and received a notification that my check will be here this week!"
We also saw the same names making the same comments in multiple ads. It's unclear if these people worked for the websites or companies that were affiliated with the posts.
BBB and AARP
We reached out to the Better Business Bureau and AARP for comment on these ads and websites. The BBB responded and told us that this is what they would refer to as a classic "government imposter scam."
A BBB spokesperson told us: "Without further research, it’s hard to tell if this is just a way to get homeowners to apply for refinancing, or if the motive is fraud. Consumers are being asked to share personally identifiable information (PII), and that’s a huge red flag because it is everything needed for identity theft. The fact that the domains are new is another red flag. BBB advises consumers never to share personal information with someone who has solicited them, whether through email, social media ad, text, etc., but to carefully vet any new company that needs PII."
In a study, the BBB found that these sorts of scams increased in 2020 and 2021 with the COVID-19 pandemic. They also sent over a page about government grant scams and a scam alert about stimulus checks.
We also heard from Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention for the AARP Fraud Watch Network. In an email, Stokes told us: "It is safe to say that ads that pitch free money from the government are government grant scams and the internet, particularly Facebook, is teeming with them. Sometimes you’ll see your Facebook friends share the information, claim they got money from a grant, and encourage you to get your free money, too. Often that means the friend’s Facebook account has been hacked. Whether it is a scammer or an actual company, you should report the ads to the FTC. These sites often ask for you to share your personal information, which can be dangerous for the person entering it."
In sum, the Facebook ads that promised a "stimulus" or "savings" for homeowners simply appeared to be a way to route future homeowners to lenders or to show current homeowners where they could refinance their mortgages. With guidance from the BBB and AARP on identifying this as a "government imposter scam" or "government grant scam," we have rated this story accordingly with the "Scam" rating.