Amid the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic and with things rapidly evolving, scammers and con artists are starting to take advantage of the situation with a slew of creative coronavirus scams. In fact, recent reports from the FBI, IRS and Federal Trade Commission are all warning of a surge in coronavirus scams and fraudulent activities.
But it’s not just the uncertainty that’s creating an opportunity for scammers – there’s also a lot of money that’s now available as part of the recently passed coronavirus aid bill through economic impact payments, or stimulus checks, and the Paycheck Protection Program. With that in mind, we decided to put together a series of articles that cover the most common ways scammers may try to take advantage of their victims during this time.
How Stimulus Checks Work
Stimulus checks, officially called economic impact payments, are the part of the coronavirus aid bill that will likely have the largest and most immediate impact on Americans. And even though many have already started to receive their payments, they are still a prime target for scammers who are looking to cash in.
What scammers don’t want you to know about these payments, though, is how they actually work. After all, it’s much easier to take advantage of someone who’s unaware of what’s happening than it is someone who knows the process. Here’s what you should expect:
- Stimulus checks will only come from the Treasury Department with no involvement from third parties.
- Your eligibility and the amount you receive is based on your 2018 or 2019 tax returns.
- These payments will arrive through direct deposit if the IRS has your bank account information on file. If you’ve received a federal tax refund in the past, the IRS should have your account information.
- If you don’t have to file a tax return each year or you’re concerned the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit information, you can submit the necessary information in the IRS’s online portal.
For the most part, you likely won’t have to do anything to receive your payment as they’ll happen automatically with no fees, charges or third-party involvement.
What Other Coronavirus Scams Should I Know About?
As we mentioned earlier, the FBI, IRS and Federal Trade Commission have all issued warnings about a surge in scams related to both economic impact payments and the coronavirus. Scammers and con artists are hoping to take advantage of the uncertainty and rapidly evolving nature of the coronavirus outbreak to catch people off guard. Given that, it’s best to be on the lookout for these common scams:
- Advance fee schemes. In these schemes, the scammer asks the victim to pay money in advance of receiving something of greater value. After the victim pays the fee, the scammer disappears and what was originally promised never arrives.
- Robocalls and phishing attempts. These types of phone scams and email scams involve someone reaching out to you to try to obtain your personal or financial information. Once they have this information, identity theft is almost guaranteed.
- Fraudulent investing schemes. Though many may wish to take their economic impact payment and invest it, scammers will use inflated or false claims to get you to invest in a company that cannot deliver on those promises – resulting in a loss of some or all of your investment.
- Fake stimulus checks. There are a couple of steps involved in this kind of scam, but it all starts with a convincing fake check. Once your bank determines it’s fraudulent, usually a few days after it’s cashed, you’ll be on the hook for paying it all back.
- Malware and app tracking. Scammers can get your personal or financial information through seemingly reputable apps or programs you install on your phone or computer. Though these apps and programs may work as promised, you could be unknowingly handing over personal or financial information.
- Paycheck Protection Program scams. Another component of the coronavirus aid bill, this program makes loans available through the Small Business Association so small businesses can keep their employees paid. Like the economic impact payments, there’s a lot to be gained by scammers.
When it comes to protecting your finances and financial information, it’s always best to reach out to your banker or our customer service department with questions or concerns. To get in touch, contact us at 800.497.8168 Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. MST.