COVID-19 fears are a breeding ground for predatory individuals to try and steal your personal information and finances.
In fact, the FTC has received more than 15,000 coronavirus-related consumer complaints of fraud and scams in 2020, including 7,200 complaints in the first nine days of April, costing Americans a whopping $7 million.
Which is why Alabama 1st District Congressman Bradley Byrne is warning Alabamians of the scams tied to the coronavirus, particularly relating to relief checks.
“While it has been encouraging to see millions of Americans come together during this crisis, the coronavirus pandemic unfortunately has provided an opportunity for criminals,” said Byrne. “Scammers are using the phone, text messages and emails to target taxpayers and steal economic impact payments and other personal information.
“Alabamians should safeguard themselves by knowing the red flags and reporting any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. Please use common sense, and remember, the IRS will never call you asking to verify or provide your financial information.”
The Treasury Department has provided an online tool for taxpayers to learn about and report scams related to COVID-19 relief checks. Additionally, the IRS has provided a list of red flags to look for. Scammers may:
- Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” Those are incorrect. The official term is economic impact payment.
- Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
- Ask by phone, email, text, or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
- Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
- Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.