Published on Dec 18, 2012
First round of Cobell settlement checks scheduled this week
On Monday the Indian Trust Settlement Administrator began issuing checks for the Cobell settlement to an estimated 400,000 American Indians who are Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders. In an effort to raise awareness about the possibility of fraud and scams targeting these account holders the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has released a Public Service Announcements (PSA) for radio stations as part of the organization’s Protect Native Money initiative.
“This settlement can benefit you, your family and your communities, but we must all be aware of the potential negative impacts. You or others may be a target for scams,” says NCAI’s Jefferson Keel in the radio PSA being distributed to Native American radio stations throughout the United States (click here to download). “Dishonest people know about the settlement and are figuring ways to take money from you. Be aware and be watchful. If you suspect a scam, you can contact your State’s Attorney General Office of Consumer Protection or your tribe.”
Keel and NCAI is also encouraging Native people to become educated and visit the organization’s site full of information on the issue at www.ncai.org/protectnativemoney. NCAI has also developed an “alert” with information for tribes to provide to their members (download here).
Keel closes the PSA by saying, “Remember, it’s your money, it’s Native money. Let’s keep it that way for generations to come.”
NCAI outlines specific ways in which recipients may be targeted. Individuals in these circumstances usually get mail, phone calls, and email with ideas for how to spend the money. For example, individuals or their family might get offers for new or used vehicles, credit card or loan offers, rent-to-own “deals”, or an advance on the money. The organization is encouraging individuals to determine how to save or spend their money, and to be wary of scams that encourage people to “Act Now!”, make big promises, offer no risk, or tell people to “keep it secret” referring to the offer.
NCAI says the best way to protect Native money is to make a plan, “take your time” when deciding how to spend the money”, ask questions, and talk to someone your trust.
The Cobell settlement payments, being made by the Indian Trust Settlement Administrator, will be distributed in two payments with the first being the $1,000 to everyone in the class. These payments are expected to be mailed on Monday December 17, 2012. The remaining payments will go out within six months of the first payment. $1.5 billion is slated for individuals in these initial payouts. $1.9 billion will go to repurchase fractionated interests over the next 10 years. A major number of the recipients are in Montana, North and South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Minnesota.
NCAI has also learned that the court will issue an order this week appointing a "special master" to oversee the distribution of the funds with a focus on efforts to locate all eligible beneficiaries. Efforts will be made to reach out to tribes to help locate members who may be eligible but who may need to update their addresses.
NCAI is directing individuals who have questions about payments for class members of the Cobell v. Salazar settlement, to contact the claims administrator, Garden City Group, Inc., directly.
Call: 1-800-961-6109 toll free
Mail: Indian Trust Settlement, P.O. Box 9577, Dublin, OH 43017-4877
Trust Beneficiary Call Center -- beneficiaries can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center for the Office of Special Trustee, toll-free, at 1-888-678-6836
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