Millions of Americans will soon get checks from the government, as part of coronavirus relief efforts, and with the arrival of those stimulus checks, you can expect to hear more about schemes designed to feed on our fears about the virus and steal your money.
If you receive any kind of message offering you a treatment, cure or vaccine for COVID-19, don't believe the hype and certainly don't send them your money.
"Anybody that calls you or sends you an email, sends information through social media that there is one, it's a complete scam," said Kathy Stokes, head of AARP's fraud prevention program.
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The same goes for those offers for face masks popping up everywhere. If you don't know and trust the source, keep your money in your bank account. "They go on Facebook and they see an offer for facemasks and they put money toward it and they never receive it," said Stokes.
The IRS is warning that more criminals may try to cheat Americans by exploiting confusion around the government's stimulus check program. The idea is to defraud people to give up their banking and personal information.
"Over a hundred million households are going to get a stimulus payment, just in Texas alone that's 8.6 million households, so we're going to start seeing scammers trying to get a piece of that," sais Stokes. "So they're going to call and pretend they're from the federal government and they need your bank account information or any way to suggest they can get it to you quicker."
You can expect the fraudsters to target people of all ages, but older Americans should be especially wary.
"There is an assumption that older Americans have more money," said Stokes. "So they are more likely to be targeted sometimes."
You can protect yourself by avoiding shady phone calls, links and texts.
"Look from information from trusted resources that you already know and pass it on," said Stokes. "If you hear about a scam share it with somebody because it's almost like inoculating them because if you know how a scam works, you are far less likely to fall victim."
The government is officially calling those stimulus checks "Economic Impact Payments," crooks likely won't use that term.
If you believe you've been swindled, you should report it to your local law enforcement.