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Posted May 4, 2020

Fraudsters are quickly deploying COVID-19 related scams to try to gain access to your personal information and your funds. When it comes to your finances, it’s increasingly important to protect your sensitive information and keep an eye out for suspicious contact attempts, odd looking links, or forms requesting verification of personal information.

Read below for the latest on COVID-19 scams to ensure you’re aware of what scams to watch out for and how to protect your information.

Stimulus Check Scams

The IRS uses your 2018/2019 tax return to determine eligibility for the stimulus check and there’s no way to speed up the process.

With the IRS releasing information regarding the disbursal of the Economic Impact Payments, fraudsters have found new tactics to attempt to steal your money and claim they’ll get you the funds faster.

Any communication you receive claiming to be the IRS or an official government website should be investigated for legitimacy by going directly to the source.

The IRS won’t reach out to you via social media, text message, email, or phone call to verify any details. Any link or message asking you to verify sensitive information in order to get your stimulus check faster, receive a higher refund amount, or apply for a grant to receive financial help is fraud.

The only website where you should be entering personal information are legitimate sites like IRS.gov or a verified tax preparation website.

In addition to the online scam attempts, fraudsters may also attempt to steal checks that are mailed or create fake ones. Use IRS resources to verify its authenticity and ask your financial institution to help you before depositing.

Phishing Attacks

Eighty percent of Americans are expecting a stimulus check. With this comes an abundance of phishing scams to be mindful of and protect yourself against.

Phishing comes in the form of emails that look legitimate, but are trying to lure you into giving them your sensitive information. If you’re receiving emails or phone calls claiming to be the IRS, don’t engage with them. The IRS will not call or email you in order to verify your personal information.

 Look out for these other phishing tactics fraudsters may use:

  • Attempt to scam members into providing their account number under the pretense of direct depositing the stimulus payment to their account
  • Notify you that some of your information is missing and needs verification in order to receive your refund
  • Offer to speed up your refund for a fee
  • Mail a bogus check that later requires verification of personal information to cash it
Grant Scams

Scammers are specifically targeting older individuals and claiming the government is offering “grants.” They may use the name “U.S. Emergency Grants Federation” or a variation of that.

These messages often include a link that will take you to a site that looks to be official, but is requesting your Social Security Number and a processing fee in order to receive the grant.

These scammers aren’t only stealing your money and SSN; links and fake sites can download harmful malware to access more personal information and potentially steal your identity.

Fake Testing Location/Vaccine Scams

Scammers are now offering drive-up testing sites, faster test results for a fee, and a reservation of a COVID-19 vaccine as ways to rope people into handing over their money out of fear.

Fraudsters impersonate someone from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and ask for your payment information or SSN in exchange for bogus tests, a testing site location, or to place you on a “vaccine reservation list.”

Any communication you receive related to testing and vaccines should be verified through WHO and CDC websites.

More Tips to Spot COVID-19 Scams
  • If you are unsure of the legitimacy of an email or message, keep in mind that correspondence from the IRS will include the official language of the stimulus check, “Economic Impact Payment.”
  • Beware of unsolicited messages – government agencies don’t communicate through social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  • If you’re being asked to pay for something that is “free,” it’s most likely fake and a scam. Additionally, government agencies will not request payment of a “processing fee” in order to distribute funds to you.
  • If you encounter communication attempts from what appears to be a legitimate government agency or organization, do your research and find their site on a separate web browser tab. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of the information you received, contact the agency or organization using contact information found directly on their site – not from the communication you received.
  • If you receive social media messages about a financial offer related to COVID-19, don’t assume it’s safe and click links. Verify with the sender that they intended to send you that link; if they didn’t, someone is attempting to hack their account. It’s often easier for fraudsters to impersonate social media accounts, so be aware of the information being shared with you.
  • To avoid misinformation regarding stimulus checks, make sure you’re checking the IRS website for the most up-to-date information.

To check the status of your stimulus check, update direct deposit information, or learn more, visit irs.gov/coronavirus.