COVID-19 Stimulus scams surface
Fraudsters haven’t wasted any time with scams related to the coronavirus. In response to the federal stimulus package, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported that fraudsters have deployed a variety of scams involving coronavirus stimulus checks. The BBB Scam Tracker has received several reports of coronavirus scams where individuals are contacted through text messages, social media post /messages, or phone calls.
One version of the scam targets seniors through a Facebook post informing them that they can get a special grant to help pay medical bills. The link within the post takes them to a bogus website claiming to be a government agency called the “U.S. Emergency Grants Federation” where they are asked to provide their Social Security Number under the guise of needing to verify their identity. In other versions, fraudsters claim individuals can get additional money – up to $150,000 in some cases. The victims are asked to pay a “processing fee” to receive a grant.
In North Carolina, there are several reports of a coronavirus scam in which potential victims received phone calls. Fraudsters told the victims they qualified for a $1,000 to $14,000 coronavirus stimulus payment; however, they must first pay a processing fee.
Coronavirus direct payments will likely be in the form of direct deposits or through U.S. Treasury checks. Fraudsters may look to seize this opportunity to create counterfeit U.S. Treasury checks to use in their scams. Knowing when the stimulus checks will be issued, fraudsters could steal U.S. Treasury checks out of the mail and attempt to cash them at a credit union after opening an account. Watch your mailbox!
Fraudsters may also attempt to scam members into providing their account number under the pretense of direct depositing the stimulus payment to their account.
- Never provide account information over the phone, text or email.
- Government agencies NEVER communicate via social media such as Facebook.
- Never pay a fee for a government grant. A government agency will never ask for a processing fee or any kind of fee upfront.
- The only list of federal grant-making agencies can be found at www.grants.gov