Six suggestions to protect yourself from stimulus check scams

Six suggestions to protect yourself from stimulus check scams
Regions Bank is warning the public that scam artists are certain to try to take away stimulus money the federal government is going to distribute to taxpayers. (Regions Doing More Today)

Congress moved quickly to help the American public with a $2 trillion stimulus bill.

Unfortunately, fraud experts believe scammers will move just as quickly to try to take away your share. The key is to arm yourself with information.

“No doubt, there will be fake messages that will make countless claims,” said Don White, head of Corporate Security at Regions Bank. “Scammers may text, email or call you, asking for your banking information or claiming they can process your stimulus payment for you. Don’t take the bait. Do not, under any circumstance, give away your personal information via text, email or phone to someone you do not know who is soliciting you.”

The bipartisan legislation to boost the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic includes economic relief for American taxpayers in the form of stimulus checks. Each eligible adult will receive up to $1,200, based on gross income.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the checks could go out in the next two weeks, although there are questions as to how the money will be distributed. For example, someone who received a refund on 2019 taxes via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) could receive a direct deposit.

Meanwhile, scammers are ready to take advantage by reaching out and saying your account information is needed, or that you can have their relief check for a small fee.

Six ways to beat the scam

To avoid fraud, consider these suggestions:

  1. Hang up. Don’t reply. The IRS, Treasury Department or other government agencies will not call, email or text message people to collect account information, Social Security numbers or credit card information. Anyone who does is likely a scammer, White said.
  2. Do not pay anyone offering to get your stimulus money early or sell you additional stimulus checks. This is a promise they will be unable to fulfill.

    Following safe financial practices can prevent your money from falling into the hands of scammers. (Regions Doing More Today)
  3. Enroll in your bank or credit card company online and mobile apps to monitor your account activity frequently, looking for suspicious activity.
  4. Avoid clicking on unknown links, which may expose you to viruses or malware.
  5. As always, slow down, verify and verify again the legitimacy of financial transactions before approving. Look for changes to account numbers, phone numbers, email addresses or other identifying information.
  6. While online, verify the legitimacy of websites you visit by:
  • Turning on browser tools, which can help identify fraudulent websites.
  • Ensuring the websites are secure and encrypted with HTTPS.
  • Looking for links that are broken or take you away from the original website.
  • Shopping through websites you know and trust.

“We are seeing a spike in fraud activity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jon Kucharski, fraud strategy manager at Regions. “No matter what this payment winds up being, only scammers will ask you to pay to get it. Just keep in mind, these unusual times require patience and a little extra vigilance to keep your finances safe.”

If you become a victim

Steps to take if you become a victim of a stimulus check fraud include:

  • Contact your bank to lock down the account and mitigate additional harm. The bank’s fraud team may be able to use the information to detect patterns and help save other customers.
  • If the scam is internet-based, report it through the FBI’s IC3 page at ic3.gov.
  • If the scam is mail-based, contact the U.S. Postal Inspector.
  • If the check is stolen, contact the U.S. Secret Service.

This story originally appeared on Regions Bank’s Doing More Today website.

Related Stories