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The post links to a website that says it collects personal information to connect users with lenders.
The site asks for bank account and Social Security numbers.
It seemed like the perfect offer for the holiday season, introduced by a smiling woman in a pink, red and green, snowflake-dotted "Merry Christmas" sweater.
"This is crazy," the woman in the Nov. 15 Facebook video said. "I just got $5,000 financial help. Let me show you how you can do it too. OK, check this out: $5,000 in cash from AmericanEmergencyFund.com." The text from the post author says, "BREAKING: Brand new financial relief program available for Americans."
The woman claimed the website is for Americans who need money for "emergency expenses like bills."
"I’ve used it like three times and it has already came in clutch for the holiday season in order for me to get gifts," she said, before encouraging people to go to the website. "You just fill out this form online, which only took like two minutes — oh, and it’s 100% free. The cool thing is they don’t really care about your credit score."
This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
(Screenshot from Facebook.)
Like most online promises of fast cash, the post’s claim is misleading. The post links to a form, but doesn’t reveal a special financial relief program. Filling out the form won’t guarantee you $5,000 — at best, it might connect you with lenders who could lend money you’ll have to pay back, with interest.
We followed the link, which took us to a site that matched the website the woman showed on her phone in the video. But a disclaimer at the very bottom of the page says the site will connect users with personal lenders.
"The website collects personal information provided by you and forwards it to partners in our lender network," it said.
In a frequently asked questions section, American Emergency Fund answered a query on fees by saying: "americanemergencyfund services will always be provided free of charge, but that is not to say that the lender will give you a loan for free. Your lender will charge you fees and/or interest and must provide you with full disclosure of their loan terms upon approval. It is then your responsibility to read through the terms before signing your loan agreement."
When we selected the $5,000 the Facebook post promised and completed the form using information for a fictional John Doe, we were asked to provide sensitive personal information.
(Screenshots from AmericanEmergencyFund.com)
About three-quarters of the way through the process, the site requested a Social Security number. Then, at the final step, after it said, "We found lenders!" it asked for a bank account number. In the end, the site redirected us to a debt management website.
Jay Mayfield, a Federal Trade Commission spokesperson, didn’t comment on the specific Facebook post we fact-checked, but encouraged people to use caution when sharing information online.
"Consumers should be very wary about providing highly sensitive personal information online, especially if they have arrived on a website by clicking on a social media ad or a link in a text message or unsolicited email," Mayfield said. "The risk of identity theft and other forms of fraud are very high in these situations."
We rate the claim that a "brand new financial relief program available for Americans" provides $5,000 in cash False.
Facebook post, Nov. 15, 2023
AmericanEmergencyFund.com, archived Nov. 28, 2023
Federal Trade Commission, What To Know About Identity Theft, accessed Nov. 28, 2023
Email exchange with Jay Mayfield, a spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission, Nov. 28, 2023
Center Post, Is the American Emergency Fund legit? Read reviews here! accessed Nov. 28, 2023
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