OFFICIALS have warned Americans to be wary of stimulus check scammers who may be trying to steal their Covid relief money.
As millions of Americans eagerly await their third stimulus check, other eligible citizens patiently wait to see if their monthly $300 Child Tax Credit arrives.
In fact, with money government assistance making rounds, this creates the perfect storm for fraudsters who try to make a dishonest dollar.
“Scammers are always looking for new opportunities, like the passage of another round of federal stimulus, to rip off consumers,” Ashley Moody told CNBC.
Here are five common red flags that experts say could signal a stimulus check scam:
1) Unsolicited calls or emails
Spoofing technology has made it easier than ever for scammers to impersonate anyone, including government agencies.
To protect themselves, most experts recommend that consumers avoid picking up any calls from unfamiliar phone numbers.
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 upfront to receive your funds.
Additionally, government agencies won’t call, text, email, or contact you on social media to ask for your Social Security, bank account or credit card number.
2) Messages that ask to ‘verify’ or provide information
When it comes to emails and text messages, consumers should be cautious of any that have instructions encouraging you to click a link to “request benefit payments,” according to the Better Business Bureau.
Consumers should be suspicious of any messages that ask them to “verify” their personal information.
The BBB Scam Tracker has found that a common stimulus check scam occurs when you receive an email or message asking you to click on a link that takes you to a bogus application to fill out to “make sure you are getting all the payments owed to you.”
3) High-pressure tactics
Another red flag is calls or messages claiming they need sensitive information right away.
Those tactics are usually suspicious if the caller asks for information to be turned over immediately or if there are threats that you’ll lose your stimulus payment if immediate action is not taken.
4) There’s a fee involved
According to BBB Scam Tracker, a common scam that popped up during the last round of stimulus checks is fraudsters offering payments faster, or even additional funds, for a small “processing fee” – typically using a prepaid debit or gift card.
However, there’s no such thing as getting your money early, even by paying a fee.
There’s also been an uptick in cash advance offers at a very high interest rate that adds up to be much higher than the stimulus check, Quentin Rhoads-Herrera, director of professional services at cybersecurity firm CRITICALSTART told CNBC.
“If anyone offers a cash advance on your stimulus check, be very aware of the underlying terms and conditions of that offer,” Rhoads-Herrera said.
5) Lookalike checks
One of the scams that experts say will likely re-emerge is phony checks.
Typically the scam starts when a recipient receives a check and deposits it in their bank account, Paige Schaffer, CEO of global identity and cyber protection services at Generali Global Assistance, said.
Schaffer says that the fraudsters then reach out and let them know that the amount was incorrect and ask them to return the overpaid funds.
But when the bank completes their review of the check and determines it’s fake, the victim is out both the money they were “supposed” to receive and the amount of the “unintended” overage they likely returned.
To protect yourself, the Better Business Bureau recommends doing your research to make sure the check is real and double-check if the government agency or organization issuing the payment actually exists.
35 total views, 1 views today