Scam artists are up to their old tricks, but with a new twist: exploiting confusion around the government’s stimulus check program to defraud people to give up banking and personal information.
Fraudsters are phoning consumers and sending email and text-message phishing attempts impersonating government agencies, charities and businesses, demanding banking and personal information in order to deposit stimulus checks, according to warnings from the FBI, several states’ attorneys general and the Better Business Bureau.
The checks are yet to go out, but the Federal Trade Commission has already received 55 complaints about fraud and violation of do-not-call lists about the shady attempts.
“Scammers are absolute opportunists and when they see something like a natural disaster or health care crisis, they pounce,” said Robyn Householder, president of the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee. “Organizations like the IRS don’t call you, they don’t text you, they don’t send you email.”
Consumers should watch out for requests for payment, personal or financial information, any offer to help apply for the program, or any grant offers related to the stimulus program, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement .
“If you receive a text, email or phone call from someone claiming to be from the government with a check for you — do not fall for it,” Nessel said. “Do not, under any circumstances, give away your personal information via text, email or phone.”
Scammers are leveraging the high demand for the program and some of the confusion surrounding who qualifies and how the money will be received.