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Voice of the consumer: Stimulus checks, unemployment fraud, furnace inspections

Jenna Middaugh
Jenna Middaugh(KKTV)
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 7:33 AM MST
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Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - As the second round of stimulus checks continues to go out, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to make sure people are getting their rightful money.

According to the FTC, when the first round of stimulus checks was sent, some nursing homes tried to take the payments, which were intended for the people who lived at the facilities. The FTC said people on Medicaid were particularly vulnerable. Under the law, the stimulus money is meant for the person it’s sent to — not the facility they live at.

If you hear about a nursing home or assisted living facility not giving people their rightful money, report it to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-222-4444. You can also tell the FTC at www.ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Remember, you can check the status of your stimulus payment at www.IRS.gov.

This week, I also wanted to let you know the Colorado Springs Police Department and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office are warning people about a rise in unemployment fraud.

The law enforcement agencies say the fraud is widespread, but they haven’t been able to tie it to a specific group. First responders, government workers and school employees are being specifically targeted. CSPD and EPSO say they’re working with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Secret Service to address the issue.

If you get a U.S. Bank ReliaCard and did not file for unemployment, report it on the state Labor Department’s website at cdle.colorado.gov/fraud-prevention. That website also lists other steps you should take.

One more thing I wanted to tell you about this week is a program called Warm Wheels. It’s a partnership between Silver Key and the Pikes Peak Mechanical Contractors Association (PPMCA). Through that program, PPMCA offers free heating system inspections for qualified people to make sure their furnace is running properly.

“We want to prevent harm to any senior through carbon monoxide, lack of heat or other proper ventilation heating,” said Derek Wilson. He’s the chief strategy officer for Silver Key, a nonprofit that offers a variety of services for seniors in the Pikes Peak region.

Wilson said Silver Key has partnered with PPMCA for more than 20 years. Each year, the organizations are able to help more than 100 families.

“Without this program, many would be in unsafe situations where they are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or worse,” Wilson said.

According to its website, PPMCA was formed after a carbon monoxide tragedy killed five people in Colorado Springs in January 1990. The group of plumbing, heating and cooling contractors created Warm Wheels in partnership with Silver Key to avoid another potential tragedy.

PPMCA said its members donate company resources, equipment and service technicians’ time for the inspections, so they’re completely free for people who qualify. If the technician finds a problem or concern with someone’s furnace, they can fix it. In some cases, people can even get a full furnace replacement.

To see if you qualify for Warm Wheels, call Silver Key at 719-884-2300. You can also check out the other services Silver Key offers for seniors by visiting www.SilverKey.org.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.

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