Scammers on the prowl for bumper stimulus money

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Be suspicious whenever someone you don’t know contacts you.

Key points

  • The IRS will never cold call you, email you, or text you.
  • Scammers are smooth. The goal is to extract your personal information and steal your identity.
  • If a scammer fails to steal your identity, they will try to take your money.

Scammers are the worst. Rather than taking action to earn money legitimately, they prey on unsuspecting people. And here’s the problem with scammers: they’re always there, waiting for the next opportunity to manipulate them. They are like rats, hiding in a corner, waiting for someone to drop a piece of bread.

When the first stimulus checks were released in 2020, the scammers had their heyday. They dedicated themselves to emailing, making calls, texting and otherwise contacting the stimulus funds due. A few months after the first checks Bank accountsAmericans had lost more than $211 million to COVID-related scams.

Between rounds of stimulus checks, the scammers slowed down. But now that the IRS estimates that about 9 million Americans have not received stimulus paymentsyou can bet these scammers will be back in full force.

If you or someone you love is among the 9 million owed, here are some of the most common red flags to watch out for.

Technology has made it possible for scammers to impersonate someone else. In this case, they are likely to say they are from the IRS, the Treasury Department, or your state unemployment benefits agency.

Your best bet is to ignore any unsolicited contact. If you happen to hear a message or open an email, don’t engage. Instead, contact the agency the scammer claims to represent.

For example, if you receive a call or someone leaves a message claiming to be from the IRS, call the official IRS number (800-829-1040). Explain your situation to a customer service representative and ask if anyone from the IRS is actually trying to contact you.

The answer will probably be no. You might be wondering why you would even want to call. If nothing else, it lets the IRS know the scammers are back.

Someone suddenly wants to be your best friend

If you engage with a scammer in any way, they will attempt to break through your defenses, act as if they are trying to do you a favor. The goal is to get your personal information.

For example, the person may tell you that your check has been returned. They will explain to you that they are “verifying” your home address, bank account number, or social security number.

Once they have this information, they go shopping and can easily steal your identity.

When the stimulus payments started, scammers were sending emails and text messages. These messages encouraged recipients to click on a link regarding stimulus payments. Once a person clicked on the link, they were taken to a fake app. This useless app asked for all kinds of private information, including social security number, address, and bank account numbers.

For a “small fee” we’ll speed things up

In this scam, scammers tell future beneficiaries that for a small processing fee, they can get them stimulus money sooner. This scam works especially well on those who need funds to cover their living expenses.

However, there is no advance payment. What the scammer hopes is that enough people pay the fee to make it worthwhile.

The scams are endless, limited only by a fraudster’s imagination. For example, another approach is to offer a “cash advance” on the money. What the scammer fails to tell his victim is that he will have to pay an astronomical interest rate on the loan.

Scammers feed on our desire to trust others. It’s up to you to protect yourself and the funds still owed to you.

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