Exercise caution at stimulus money seminars, BBB says

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A group out of Las Vegas is holding a seminar in Memphis that promises to show business owners how to get their cut of government stimulus money approved last year. But the Better Business Bureau says if you plan to attend, proceed with caution.

Melba Vinson, who has owned her Memphis flower shop for 21 years, recently received a phone call asking if she would be interested in government stimulus money.

"She said, 'Well, there's money available, any amount you might want, and you'll never have to repay this money,'" Vinson said.

Vinson agreed to attend a free seminar at the Hilton Hotel on Ridge Lake Boulevard, but became skeptical when her confirmation email said she should bring a business check, her business license and photo I. D.  

"It's just a big red flag that's a scary proposition," she said.

Friday, the Better Business Bureau's Randy Hutchison could not confirm if the seminar was legitimate, but warned against handing over information.    

"The BBB contacted the company," he said. "They identified themselves as the American Funding Institute out of Las Vegas, but the better Business Bureau couldn't find any files about the company's background."

And when BBB representatives contacted seminar organizers, their vague responses also raised a red flag.  

"Who they are exactly? Where the money is coming from...who qualifies...(they were) just very vague on the details," Hutchinson said.

It all gave Melba Vinson second thoughts.

"In view of the fact that nobody knew anything about this, I canceled," she said.

There are simpler ways to find out if you qualify for stimulus money.  To get started, click here.

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