How to Avoid Coronavirus Stimulus Check Scams

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While so many people have come together in this time of crisis, there are criminals out there trying to take advantage of us when we’re at our most vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in most people—but the worst in a few. Scammers are out in full force. They will try to trick you, take your money, steal your identity. Don’t let them!

Don’t Fall for Stimulus Check Phishing Scams

By now you’ve heard that most Americans will receive a $1200 stimulus check from the federal government. Great news, right? And to receive the money, most people don’t need to do anything at all. If you filed taxes in 2018 and 2019, you’ll receive either a direct deposit into your bank account or a check in the mail. If you didn’t file taxes because you earned too little or weren’t required to file for other reasons, you may still be eligible for the money. Use the “non-filers” application.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that because thieves know you’re expecting money—money that you probably need—your guard may be down. They use phishing attacks to trick you into giving out personal info. Phishing is when criminals pretend to be someone they’re not; like the IRS. Then they send you an email or text asking to verify your account information. That’s how they access your money or your personal information to steal your identity. But the REAL IRS isn’t going to do that. Do not give out sensitive information like your social security number or banking information online.

There Are No Stimulus Check Upfront Fees

It’s not surprising that there’s a lot of confusion around the government checks. The $2 trillion stimulus package that created them has never happened before—ever! That’s why criminals can tell a convincing story. They might call you and tell you that your check is on the way once you pay a tiny upfront fee. Don’t pay it. They may not even want the small amount of money you’ll shell out. What they really want is access to your bank account. Don’t give it to them!

Don’t Fall for Fake Check Scams

Another scam is when you receive an official-looking check that’s isn’t valid. It might be totally fake or belong to a closed account, or even to the victim of identity theft. The scammer uses the check to “give” you money. Then, they tell you that they overpaid you and you need to pay back the difference. In the example of the stimulus check, you might receive a $1500 check from what appears to be the IRS. Then you get an immediate notification that you were overpaid by $300 and you need to pay back the money. The letter or email may even scare you. They could threaten you with penalty and fines. Don’t fall for it.

The first thing you need to know is that if you recently received a stimulus check, it’s a fake. The government plans to first issue direct deposits. Checks will come as a secondary measure. But also, don’t expect to be overpaid, especially if the amount has pennies in it. An effort to get even pennies from you is an effort to access all the money that is in your bank account.

At Charter College, we believe we’re all in this together. We want you, all our students, staff, and the whole community to stay well—physically, emotionally, and financially. In addition to bringing you regular updates on our blog, we’re training our IT students to recognize scams and help prevent them. If you’re interested in an IT career where you can learn about security, hacking, and ethical hacking, contact us today. Our IT programs are online and enrolling now.