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Watch for Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement Scams

by Brett M. Christensen

US authorities are warning consumers about scams that claim US citizens can receive payments from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). 

Via spam messages and deceptive advertisements, scammers are attempting to trick people into purchasing ongoing subscriptions that promise to give them access to regular monthly payments from the Master Settlement Agreement.

However,  individuals are not eligible to receive payments from the MSA.  States involved in the lawsuits against the tobacco companies will receive payments for the indefinite future but individual citizens cannot directly access any of these payments.  Any claim that you can receive payments via the MSA is fraudulent.

Not only do these scammers trick you into paying fees for worthless subscriptions, they also require you to provide your credit card details and other personal information.

Once they have this information, they may use it to commit credit card fraud and identity theft.

If you see one of these scams, don’t be fooled into parting with your money and personal information.


Background

Information about the MSA can be found on the Public Health Law Center website and many other publications.  The Public Health Law Center notes:

The Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) is an accord reached in November 1998 between the state Attorneys General of 46 states, five U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and the five largest tobacco companies in America concerning the advertising, marketing and promotion of tobacco products. In addition to requiring the tobacco industry to pay the settling states approximately $10 billion annually for the indefinite future, the MSA also set standards for, and imposed restrictions on, the sale and marketing of cigarettes by participating cigarette manufacturers.

Official Warnings About the Scam

The Washington State Office of the Attorney General has issued the following consumer alert about the scam:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Jun 13 2017

The Attorney General’s Office has received numerous inquiries about advertisements telling consumers that they can sign up to receive payments from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. This is a scam. Individuals are not eligible to receive payments from the Master Settlement Agreement.

 

The online advertisements say that consumers can receive “guaranteed” tax-free payments of $2,300 every month — forever. The catch is that, in order to learn how to supposedly claim a portion of the tobacco settlement, consumers must purchase a subscription that costs anywhere from $79 to $129. The order form asks consumers for their personal information and a credit card number. The Attorney General warns consumers that once they provide a credit card number, it may be difficult to cancel and obtain a refund.

 

The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement was finalized among the four largest U.S. tobacco companies, 46 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. The settlement resolved lawsuits against the tobacco companies for tobacco-related health care costs incurred by the states. The settlement does not provide for payments to individuals, though some states, including Washington, issued bonds backed by the settlement agreement payments as investment opportunities.

 

Consumers who have received these advertisements may file a complaint at http://www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.

Other AG offices have issued similar warnings.

The Public Health Law Center has also published a post warning about the scam


Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer