According to the FTC, American taxpayers lost millions due to COVID-19 scams, with a significant amount connected to the first two rounds of stimulus checks. With the third round of stimulus checks expected to be sent in the near future, it’s important to protect yourself by learning all about these scams…
How the scams play out:
Stimulus check scams can take the form of phishing scams, in which a criminal asks victims to provide personal information to receive their check, and then instead uses that information to access the victim’s personal information.
In other variants of the stimulus check scam, a victim receives an email prompting them to download an embedded link to receive their check. The link, of course, will infect the victim’s computer with malware.
In yet another stimulus check scam, a criminal impersonates an IRS official or a representative of another government office demanding a processing fee before the check can be sent.
Finally, there have been reports of taxpayers receiving checks that appear to be authentic stimulus checks, but are actually fraudulent. They deposit the check and, soon afterward, a scammer reaches out to them to inform them the check amount was incorrect and they must return some of the funds.
1. Unsolicited calls or emails
It’s best to avoid answering unsolicited calls and/or emails from unknown contacts to protect yourself from a stimulus check scam. Similarly, never click on a link in an unsolicited email or text message, as it may contain malware.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), scammers have also been contacting people through robocalls and leaving messages about the stimulus checks and direct deposits. These calls should likewise be ignored.
2. Messages that ask you to verify or provide sensitive information
The BBB is warning of emails and text messages asking citizens to verify or supply information to receive their stimulus checks. Sometimes, the victim will receive an email instructing them to click on a link to receive their benefit payments. This, too, is a scam. The IRS will not call, text or email any taxpayer to verify their information.
3. High-pressure tactics
If a phone call or email demands immediate action on your part and uses a threat of losing your stimulus payment, you are likely looking at a scam. There is no action you need to take to receive your check.
4. Fee solicitations
There is no processing fee or any other charge attached to the stimulus payments. If you do answer a call, and it’s about your stimulus payment, keep in mind that U.S. government agencies won’t ask you to pay anything up front to receive your funds. There’s also no way to pay extra for receiving your stimulus payment earlier.
5. Inflated check amount
All taxpayers receiving their stimulus payment via paper check should verify that the check is authentic before depositing it in their checking account. Look up the agency or organization that allegedly sent the check to see if it really exists, and check the status of your payment to see if you actually should have received it.
Be sure to utilize your Benefits Plus® membership as a way to protect yourself from fraudulent activity! Once you’ve upgraded your basic checking account to a Benefits Plus® checking with SeaComm, you will gain access to a variety of identity theft protection services including fraud alerts, identity theft alerts, lost document recovery services, and more. Stop by your local SeaComm branch to upgrade your checking account.
For complete information, terms, conditions and exclusions please visit www.benefits-plus.org or call 866-329-7587.