The Coronavirus has undoubtedly changed the landscape of things. Along with the pandemic, cybercrime is at an all-time high, and one of the ways that hackers and thieves are benefiting is through stimulus check fraud. The government is working on a second stimulus check for 2021, and Americans are ripe for this type of attack.
What is Stimulus Check Fraud?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the IRS has been warning Americans about rampant stimulus check fraud. Although these scams vary in type, stimulus check scams is when scammers contact you urgently to confirm your stimulus check or help you get it sooner (if you give them your bank account details).
7 Common Stimulus Check Scams
There are a few common stimulus fraud out there that you need to be aware of so you can steer clear. The most popular scams are:
Get Your Check Faster - If you are promised cash advances or a quicker payment, these are scams. If a fraudster offers you money upfront, you will pay a tremendous interest rate, and it’s probably better to wait for your check. If the fraudsters offer you a prepaid debit card or gift cards while you wait, that is another big indicator that it is fraud.
Phony Checks - Another type of stimulus check fraud is if you receive a check earlier than the government promised and it has an odd amount with cents, it is a scam. In most cases, the government will try to direct deposit your money and avoid checks.
Threats - You may receive a phone call, text, or email that threatens the loss of your stimulus money if you don’t act quickly and click a link or call a phone number. You may be asked to visit a malicious website.
Ask to Verify Information - Another way scammers operate is by scaring victims into providing personal information to use for identity theft or fraud. They may ask you to verify your social security number, bank account number, or other personal information. Always be on the lookout for this type of scam. Keep in mind the IRS does not work that way and will never contact you through any of those methods or ask you to verify the information they already have.
Fees - If you receive anything promising your check early or a larger amount if you only pay a small processing fee, it is a scam. There is no fee involved with your stimulus check, and you cannot get them quicker than the government issues them.
Cash Advance/Short-term Loans - If anyone offers you a cash advance on your stimulus payment, walk away. Even if it was legitimate, they would charge you a high-interest rate, and it would not be worth the loan.
Social Engineering Ads - Scammers often use fake social media ads to connect with innocent victims. They especially target seniors. If you see ads on social media talking about stimulus payments faster or more money, understand that these are scams. There is no way to get extra or get it earlier than the government issues payments.
How to Report Stimulus Check Fraud
Stimulus Check Fraud Prevention
- If you receive any contact (other than your check in the mail) that has a subject line of Stimulus Check or Stimulus Payment, those are big red flags. It may be a scam.
- If you are contacted by text, email, phone calls, or social media, that is another warning sign; it may not be legitimate.
- If there is a sense of urgency about the message, like you might not get your check if you don’t “act fast,” that is another red flag.
- If the message promises you a faster payment, it is a scam.
- Keep in mind the social security administration, FTC, or the IRS does not have the human resources or inclination to contact every taxpayer about their stimulus check. Therefore, if you receive a stimulus check notice via email, phone calls, text message, or social media, it is probably stimulus check fraud. Simply ignore it.
- Watch out for anyone who asks for your bank account information or uses the term Stimulus Check or Payment. The government calls it an “Economic Impact Payment.”
- Be careful of any bogus paper checks you receive in the mail.
- Don’t ever click a link in an email, text message, or social media promising a bigger stimulus or quicker payment.
- Watch out for phishing emails and never give out your personal or financial information to anyone who requests it unsolicited.
- Never visit malicious websites that could download malware to your computer.
- Always keep your devices updated with the latest security patches and install antivirus software to protect you from malicious websites, malware, and ransomware.
FTC Identity Theft Reporting Tool - Identity Theft Recovery Steps | IdentityTheft.gov.
IRS Website Get My Payment - Get My Payment | Internal Revenue Service.
Report Fake Checks to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Report Stimulus Check Fraud - Did an ID thief steal your stimulus payment? Report it to us. | FTC Consumer Information.
IRS Economic Impact Payments Info - Economic Impact Payments continue to be sent, check IRS.gov for answers to common questions | Internal Revenue Service.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) - https://www.bbb.org.