Special to Atmore News
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the distribution of COVID-19 economic stimulus checks to Americans has given rise to unprecedented online scams.
The most recent numbers available show that the FTC has received 18,235 reports of fraud costing victims $13.44 million; Google reported it is blocking 18 million scam emails every single day; and 150,000 fraudulent stimulus check sites have already been launched.
SocialCatfish.com today released a report, 5 Stimulus Check Online Scams to Avoid, based on information from the FTC, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service during the ongoing pandemic. The report focuses on the most common scams identified so far. The report may be viewed at https://socialcatfish.com/blog/stimulus-check-scams.
*Robocall check scams: The scammer will call pretending to be the IRS and ask for your personal financial information, claiming the agency needs the information to deposit the stimulus check into the recipient’s bank account. These scammers will also ask for a fee to deposit the check.
In reality, they want your information so they can pretend to be you and claim the check for themselves. These people can also drain your bank account of funds with this information and will keep the fee for themselves with no check in return.
How to avoid: Do not give out any personal information. The government already has your information on file from when you filed your tax return. The stimulus check will either be automatically deposited into your account or you will get it mailed to your house.
*Email and text scams: Scammers will pretend to be IRS or other federal agents by emailing or texting a link to click to receive your check. If you click on the link, your electronic device will get plagued with malware and your information gets stolen.
How to avoid: Do not click on any links that are emailed or texted to you. Again, the government already has your information and checks are either directly deposited or mailed.
*Identity theft scams: If a person has not received his or her stimulus check yet, and the official IRS website says otherwise, it could be possible that you are a victim of identity theft. This means that a scammer has found a way to steal your information, like your SSN, and has claimed your stimulus check.
How to avoid: If you believe to have been a victim of this kind of fraud, you can report it to www.consumer.ftc.gov or irs.gov.
*Google search scam: Scammers have created copies of the official IRS “Get My Payment” site and have updated their search engine terms so that people conducting Google searches for information find these fake sites. Once a person finds the site, he or she will likely think it is the official IRS website and will enter their information.
How to avoid: Do not go on any website to get your stimulus check unless it is an official .gov or .ca site and beware of being redirected to a website from a non-reputable news source.
*Third-party stimulus check scams: Scammers have come up with their own stimulus check programs, claiming they can give you additional money to go along with the government check. They will send you letters in the mail, put pamphlets on your car or send you an email or social media message trying to advertise their program.
This happened to a man in Florida, who claimed to have gotten an official-looking check of $3,000 mailed to him with a letter. Another example of this is a Costco relief program, claiming to help with groceries and money during this time.
How to avoid: Only believe in the stimulus check programs announced by the government or reported by reputable news outlets. If you cannot find it reported by reputable news outlets, it is most probably a scam.
Anyone who thinks he or she has encountered a coronavirus scam should contact local law enforcement or file a complaint with the FTC at www.consumer.ftc.gov.