“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu
We are living in an uneasy time and we are all concerned about the future, and unfortunately now we have yet another thing to be worried about: scammers.
Scammers quickly went to work to take advantage of the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act” and already have schemes to defraud taxpayers.
One specific scheme identity thieves have come up with is leveraging confusion over the stimulus checks to convince people to share personally-identifying information. It’s shameful but the Better Business Bureau is already reporting that government imposters are calling about COVID-19 relief.
Below are the basics of how some of these types of scams work and the facts about the stimulus checks from a recent article in Forbes so you can protect yourself and any of your vulnerable loved ones.
HOW DOES THE SCAM WORK
Someone will call and suggest that you might qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant and that it’s necessary to first verify your identity and process your request.
Variations on the scheme may involve contacts through text messages, social media posts, and messages.
TWISTS ON THE SCAM
The scammer may suggest you can get more money from the government or get your stimulus check faster – if you share personal details and pay a minimal “processing fee.”
DO NOT TAKE THE BAIT!
Stimulus checks are FREE money from the government. You DO NOT need to spend money to receive your check. There are NO short-cuts, NO fees and NO additional money.
OTHER SCAMS TO BE AWARE OF
There are some reports out there about fake checks. If you receive a “stimulus check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud. It will take the Treasury a few weeks to mail those out.
If you receive a “stimulus check” for an odd amount (and specifically one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.
HOW THE STIMULUS CHECKS WORK
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will deposit your check into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).
The IRS WILL NOT call and ask you to verify your payment details.
Please DO NOT share your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information even if someone is claiming that it’s required to get your stimulus check. IT’S A SCAM.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE A QUESTIONABLE CALL, EMAIL OR MESSAGE OR THINK YOU’VE BEEN SCAMMED
First, if you receive a call, do not engage. Simply hang up. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Don’t click on any links in those emails.
If you’ve come across a scam, you can report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is also receiving reports of potential scams and is warning that “Small businesses are also getting scam calls about virus-related funding or loans and online listing verification.”
If you think you’ve been a victim of a Coronavirus scam, you should contact law enforcement immediately.