Americans have lost over $ 211 million to Covid-19 fraud and stimulus payment fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. More than 275 have been with the agency since January. 600 complaints received.
Although fraud activity is below its highs earlier this year, it is likely to pick up again after President Donald Trump signs the $ 900 billion pandemic aid package, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.
This is because the legislation includes provisions for a second round of stimulus payments, up to $ 600 per person, including dependent children under the age of 17 if you are a person under 75. Earned $ 000 ($ 150. $ 000 for those who are married together) 2019. Stimulus payments expire when you’ve earned more than that and are paid for those with an adjusted gross income of 87. $ 000 or more (174. 000 USD for married couples). .
The IRS is expected to initiate direct deposits of stimulus payments before Thursday and to send paper checks and debit cards by January. 15th. And while Trump signed the aid package a little later than expected, a senior official told CNBC on Monday that payments will be made at the same time.
However, the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the second round of stimulus payments is creating the « perfect storm for scammers trying to make a dishonest dollar, » says Ashley Moody, Florida’s attorney general. On Monday, Moody’s office issued a notice warning the public of the increased potential for fraud.
« Scammers are always looking for new ways, like putting in another round of federal incentives to rip off consumers, » says Moody.
Spoofing technology has made it easier than ever for scammers to impersonate someone, including government agencies. To protect themselves, most experts recommend consumers not to receive calls from unknown phone numbers. Roll it to voicemail for further review.
« I would be very wary of incoming emails or phone calls allegedly from the IRS, Treasury Department, state unemployment benefit agency, etc.. come. « says Ted Rossman, credit industry analyst at CreditCards. com. When you get a call or message from a government agency, you initiate a separate means of communication, Rossman says. For example, instead of responding directly to a call or email, call the agency back on a number you trust or listed on their official website.
When you answer a call and it comes down to your stimulus payment, remember that U. . S.. . Government agencies will not ask you to prepay anything in order to receive your money. « Anyone who does this is a scam, » writes Jennifer Leach, assistant director of the FTC’s Consumer and Business Education division.
Additionally, government agencies « won’t call you, text you, email you, or contact you on social media to ask about your social security, bank account, or credit card number, » says Leach. If you receive messages asking for this information, it is likely a scam.
When it comes to email and text messages, consumers should be wary of instructions that encourage them to click a link to “request benefit payments,” according to the Better Business Bureau. Also be wary of messages that, according to Moody’s office, ask you to « verify » your personal information.
« The IRS will not call, text, or email anyone to verify their information, » the Identity Theft Resource Center wrote on a recently posted blog warning of stimulus test fraud.
The BBB Scam Tracker has found that a common stimulus to review stimuli occurs when you receive an email or message asking you to click a link that will take you to a fake application that needs to be completed to ensure that you receive all payments owed to you. « But this is usually just one way for scammers to get your personal information and opens up the possibility of identity theft, » the Bureau wrote in a warning released last week.
Another important clue that a call or message is from a scammer, according to Moody’s office, is when he says he needs confidential information right away. It is usually a red flag when something needs to be done immediately or when there is a risk of losing your stimulus payment if immediate action is not taken.
« Take a breather, » recommends Ron Schlecht, Managing Partner of the cybersecurity company BTB Security. Don’t be fooled into buying anything or giving up information, Schlecht told CNBC Make It earlier this year.
A common scam that has surfaced during the last round of stimulus testing is scammers who offer faster payments or even additional funding for a small « processing fee ». A prepaid debit or gift card is typically used, according to BBB Scam Tracker.
But the FTC Leach says there’s no way you can get your money early, even if you pay a fee. « Anyone who says they can join you now (or soon) is lying and cheating, » she says.
There has also been a surge in prepayment offers at a very high interest rate that is much higher than the stimulus check, says Quentin Rhoads-Herrera, director of professional services at cybersecurity firm CRITICALSTART.
« If someone offers a cash advance for your stimulus check, consider the terms and conditions of that offer, » says Rhoads-Herrera.
One of the scams that experts say is likely to reappear in the second round of stimulus payments is fake checks. « We have seen a lot of counterfeit check scams over the past year that look like government checks, » said Paige Schaffer, CEO of global identity and cyber security services at Generali Global Assistance
Typically, when a recipient receives a check and funds their bank account, fraud begins. The scammers then contact them and let them know the amount was wrong and ask them to return the overpaid funds, Schaffer says. But by the time the bank finishes its verification of the check and determines that it is a forgery, the victim has both the money it should have « received » and the amount of the « unintended » excess that it likely returned , lost, says Schaffer.
To protect yourself, the Better Business Bureau recommends doing your research to make sure the check is genuine and to verify that the government agency or organization issuing the payment actually exists. « Scammers often name agencies and / or grants, » warns the BBB.
And remember, you can check your stimulus payment status and eligibility directly with the IRS.
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