USDA officials are warning farmers about fraudulent letters that are being sent to individuals and businesses. Representatives of the USDA learned late Friday afternoon that fraudulent letters had been sent by fax to individuals in four states.
Chief Administrative Officer of the Nebraska Farm Service Agency Mike Sanders says it is important that farmers not respond to the letters.
"We received notification from our national office that there was a person or entity that was representing themselves as USDA," Sanders said. "They were sending out fax messages to various producers in a four-state area trying to obtain financial information from the producers."
Sanders says his office is aware of one letter that a Nebraska farmer received and encourages other farmers to report any fraudulent letters to their local FSA office.
"From a cursory review it appeared to be a fictitious memo and request for information," Sanders said. "We are forwarding those requests that we have received to our office of general counsel and office of Inspector General for follow up."
The letters bear USDA's logo and seal and are signed by an individual identified as Frank Rutenberg using a title of Senior Procurement Officer. Sanders says the letter is asking the individual for financial information.
"There is a cover memo that is titled authorization to release financial information where basically it's a blank form where the producer is to record their business name and what they're doing business as," Sanders said. "And they're asking for bank names, branches, and account numbers and and tax IDs."
Besides Nebraska, other states reporting the letters are Alabama, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. However the letters may have also been sent to other states. Recipients should not respond and should not supply the requested information. USDA is investigating this matter through the Office of the Inspector General.