Fulton County officials fear a southwest Atlanta woman is preying on the elderly with promises of a big government stimulus check in exchange for private information.
The accused woman, Vanessa Emerson, told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas she is only trying to help struggling people.
Thomas stopped by Emerson’s apartment Thursday. She denied any wrongdoing in what her paperwork calls the American Opportunities stimulus monies.
"We wasn't sharing this information with anyone," Emerson said.
In a video provided to Channel 2 by the Fulton County government, Emerson can be seen sitting in front of the National Action Network's Atlanta office Thursday morning. A long line of people are waiting to fill out forms with the promise they will receive a $500 check from the government. Emerson shows the crowd a copy of the check she said she received.
"If you don't apply for this money, it goes back to the government, so that's why we are here to let everyone know about this money," she said in the video.
The forms ask for Social Security numbers, birth dates and other data. Rosemary Samuels is among hundreds of people who have filled them out.
"You didn't have to pay out no money, so you aren't losing anything," Samuels said.
County leaders fear seniors among others are being taken advantage of.
"They may be exploiting our seniors and taking their information and misusing it and taking their identities," said Regine Denis, with the Fulton County Aging Services Department.
Thomas asked Emerson to whom she gives the completed forms.
"I am giving it to a second party who turns it into the person who processes it," she replied.
The forms have been faxed to that processor and people have received their money, Emerson said. She said the remaining 800 or so forms are in a sealed envelope. But as explained, her son arrived at the apartment and pulled them from a bag.
“We didn't have no intentions of trying to scam anybody. As far as we knew, everything was legit," Brandon Emerson said.
With accusations flying, the Emersons said they are stopping the service and returning the forms to those who filled them out.
"People were kissing me so happy to get this money, and the same people were cursing me out today, saying it was a scam," Emerson told Thomas.
Emerson said she is a member of the local chapter of the National Action Network, but the group has nothing to do with the program. The executive director of the national group said leaders knew nothing about it, and their lawyer is looking into it.