AOC is not a multimillionaire with five cars. Why do bogus claims about her net worth persist online?

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At a recent town hall in her congressional district, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was once again falsely accused of being a secret multimillionaire – a bogus, repeatedly debunked claim that has circulated across dubious websites and social media platforms since she entered office.

The evidence-free claims – that the congresswoman has a net worth of $29m and owns one of the world’s most expensive homes – continue to thrive online, despite publicly available financial disclosure forms, while her critics suggest her denial is evidence of some kind of conspiracy theory to shield her wealth and power.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s most recent financial disclosure forms from 2021 reported between $3,003 and $45,000 in assets, including a pension plan.

Her disclosures show she had between $1,001 and $15,000 in a checking account, between $1,001 and $15,000 in a brokerage account, and between $1,001 and $15,000 invested in her retirement plan.

As a member of Congress, she earns an annual salary of $174,000. And as a member of Congress, she rents apartments in both New York City, which she represents in the US House of Representatives, and Washington DC.

Statements from the US Department of Education also show she owes between $15,000 and $50,000 in federally backed student loans.

She has repeatedly stated that she has owed more than $17,000 in student loans after seeking her undergraduate degree at Boston University between 2007 and 2010. (The university’s annual tuition for the 2022-2023 school year is $61,050, not counting accommodations, textbooks and supplies.)

“I don’t own nor trade individual stocks, accept no corporate money to my campaign, [and] live solely off my congressional salary (which requires us to pay for [two] rents out of pocket),” she wrote on Twitter.

“All of this is publicly disclosed info,” she said, adding that she is enrolled in a Thrift Savings Plan like many other federal workers, offering similar savings and tax benefits offered in 401k plans under private companies.

But false claims about her earnings and “net worth” have persisted, including a still-living article on the website that falsely lists the congresswoman’s alleged assets, including “luxury yachts” and five cars, none of which exist.

Most of the false claims circulating online have cited the website, which has previously made unsubstantiated claims about Jen Psaki, among other prominent US officials.

The article previously was titled “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Net Worth 2022 (Forbes) Assets Salary Cars House” but was edited in August 2022 to remove “Forbes” from the title, according to archived captures.

A spokesperson for Forbes told both USA Today and Reuters that the company “has not reported on the net worth of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” publishes similarly dubious search engine-optimised information dumps about the alleged net worth of high-profile figures without providing sources. The website appears to be based in India and is hosted by Cloudfare. Identifying information about its ownership is not available.

The Independent has requested comment from the website’s listed “CEO and founder.”

The lawmaker is ranked among some of the least-wealthy members of Congress, where the median net worth among representatives and senators is roughly $1m, according to an analysis from OpenSecrets.

Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott ranks as the wealthiest member of Congress, with nearly $260m in net assets.