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Confused about your stimulus check? Scammers sure hope so.

by Ben Spradling | Feb 1, 2021 12:51:37 PM

The conversation surrounding stimulus checks has been mostly constant over the past 10-plus months. Not everything said could be categorized as “clear.”

First, there was confusion over the delivery, timing and amount included in the original economic stimulus payment sent out last May. Similar issues plagued the second round of stimulus checks sent out in December, as some Americans saw their funds land in the wrong bank account and many others experienced extended delays.

Now, with discussions of a third stimulus check beginning to take shape, uncertainty associated with those payments may be getting one more boost. If you’re a scammer, that should be great news. Ambiguity connected to the first two payments created opportunities to take advantage of consumers.

Another round of payments should only increase that potential.

Previously, BBB ScamTracker received numerous reports of scammers using text messages, emails, and phone calls to contact residents about benefits payments. The fake texts and emails include links to forms asking recipients to confirm their personal information. By confirming, the scammer falsely guaranteed the consumer will get all the payments they’re owed.

The reality is those personal details are used to commit identity theft. Scammers are impersonating officials connected to government agencies like the Treasury Department and IRS to fool residents into giving up valuable information, including social security numbers or bank account details.

If you get a call from one of these impersonators, you’ll likely note that the messaging is heavy on urgency. Scammers will insist that your check cannot be sent until your personal details are confirmed. In some cases, victims have even been asked to pay a “processing fee” that will expedite the arrival of their stimulus payments.

As talk of another stimulus check starts to swirl, Better Business Bureau recommends following these tips for spotting a government impersonator:

  • Prioritize patience. If you’re encouraged to act immediately to secure your stimulus check, don’t. Scammers want you to act before you have time to process the situation. Don’t give up any information you’ll regret, no matter how urgent the conversation seems.
  • Refrain from responding. Avoid replying to calls, texts or emails you receive from someone claiming to be associated with a government agency. Instead, if you believe the message is real, reach out to those agencies directly using their official contact information.
  • Find the fakes. A growing number of scammers are operating under made-up names that sound like official government agencies, but don’t actually exist. Before sharing any information, make certain the organization is real.
  • Free means free. Stimulus checks are distributed without any processing fees. If you’re being told you need to pay something in order to access your funds, that information is incorrect. You’re getting paid, not making a payment.

Find more about stimulus check scams and other consumer issues by visiting trust-bbb.org.

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