It may not be a surprise to you that hackers and other scammers are trying to get between you and your stimulus money. Using the COVID-19 pandemic to prey on unsuspecting or ill-prepared people, they have already made off with more than millions of the $290 billion that the U.S. government has earmarked for its citizens. Let’s look at how you can avoid being another unfortunate victim of the modern cybercriminal.
The stimulus is not the first time that the U.S. Government has distributed stimulus checks, but as online banking has become more commonplace, the treasury has been distributing millions of checks via direct deposit and it has given online scammers the opportunity to try and steal money that by right will come to you. Here are five ways that they are going about scamming people:
- Avoid anything that has you sign up for stimulus money – Chances are that you don’t have to sign up to receive stimulus dollars, so be wary of anyone who contacts you claiming that you need to fill out information to enroll you.
- Scammers don’t just act online – There has been evidence of people getting postcards in the mail with a password printed on it and addressed to an individual. The card asks the user to go online to “access” or “verify” the individual’s payment information (bank account, routing number, etc.) Similar scams have been sent through traditional phishing messages via email, however, so read your correspondence thoroughly.
- You can’t get your money faster – Scammers have also contacted people promising that for a small fee, they can get their money to them faster. Reputable tax companies have services like this around tax time, so it may be just enough to fool some people.
- No, you aren’t getting more – There have also been reports of scammers sending people checks for more than they are owed. Later the scammer will call to apologize for the mistake and ask the person to return the difference in cash, gift cards, or a wire transfer. If the check isn’t coming from the U.S. Treasury, and you weren’t expecting another check, it is surely a scam.
- IRS correspondence – It’s true that some people have had to fill out forms on the IRS website in order to get their checks sent to them or deposited in their bank accounts. Scammers have set up webforms much like the ones on the IRS’ Economic Impact Payment website. The IRS typically contacts people through the mail, so if you get a message or an email from the IRS asking you to take action, it’s best to ignore it.
Knowledge is the best defense against scammers. If you haven’t yet received your CARES Act stimulus money, you need to go to the official IRS website to find out why (or more likely when) you will receive your stimulus check.
Have you seen any scams looking to steal people’s money? Leave your story in the comments below and check back to our blog for more information about cybersecurity, and the practices you need to know to avoid being a victim of cybercrime.