Scammers swoop in to steal stimulus checks

Better Business Bureau has already received reports of con artists attempting to steal new COVID-19 relief checks

CENTRAL VALLEY – Outgoing president, Donald Trump, signed the COVID-19 relief bill last Sunday evening. But even before his name was affixed to paper scammers were already out in force.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) they are receiving reports of con artists claiming that people need to either pay for their stimulus check or provide personal information to receive it.

As always, there are several versions of this con. The BBB states that people have been contacted through text message, email, and phone calls about the new $600 COVID-19 stimulus checks.

According to the reports, emails or text messages have been sent out instructing people to click a link to “request benefit payments.” The link will take people to an application, which prompts them to enter information in order to “make sure you are getting all the payments owed to you.” Of course, this “application” is really a way to phish for personal details and opens people up to risk of identity theft.

In a phone variation, the scammer pretends to be calling from a government agency. The con artist insists people need to pay money—or “confirm” personal information—before they can receive their stimulus check. Other times, scammers claim that people can get additional money or even receive funds immediately. All anyone needs to do is pay a small “processing fee” through a pre-paid debit card.

Tips to Spot a Government Imposter Scam:

Stay calm. If you receive any of these impostor calls, resisting the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is. Scammers try to get you to act before you have a chance to think.

Don’t reply directly. Don’t respond to the call, text, or email. If you think the message may be real, find the government agencies’ contact information on their website and contact them directly.

Check for look-alikes. Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists. Scammers often make up names of agencies and/or grants.

Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant or program. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it is not really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is grants.gov.

For More Information

Read more about government grant scams in this BBB tip. For more information about scams in the wake of coronavirus, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.

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