BEWARE: Don’t Fall For Government Relief Check Scams
The proposed federal stimulus package includes sending every American a check to offset lost income from the coronavirus. Scammers wasted no time in taking advantage. The Better Business Bureau is already getting reports about government imposters calling about the checks.
Tamara Sue got one of those calls. "The ,man claimed my government issued check was ready for deposit into my banking account," she shared on Facebook. The man then asked for her account information.
The BBB says calls and social media posts are claiming you qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant. "With the news stories about the proposed stimulus plan, you figure it must be true." When you click the link, you're directed to what seems like an official website asking you to enter your personal information and/or banking details.
The BBB Scam Tracker has received reports of people contacted through text message, social media posts and messages, and phone calls. One variation is a Facebook post telling seniors about a special grant to help pay medical bills. The link leads to a website claiming to be a government agency called the "U.S. Emergency Grants Federation" (phony, of course). The site requests your Social Security number under the guise of needing to verify your eligibility. In other versions, scammers claim you can get additional money – up to $150K in one case – or even receive your funds immediately. All you need to do is share personal details and pay a small “processing fee.”
No matter where you see the message, don’t click. "In addition to taking your money, these sites also can also download malware to your device and use your information for identity theft," warns the BBB.
The BBB provides tips to Spot a COVID-19 Grant Scam:
- Remember, government agencies do not communicate through social media avenues like Facebook. So, be wary of unsolicited messages.
- Do not pay any money for a "free" government grant.If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it is not really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is Grants.gov.
- Check for look-alikes. Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists. Find contact info on your own and call them to be sure the person you’ve heard from is legitimate.
- Don’t assume an offer in a social media message is from a real friend.It’s easier for scammers to impersonate real people on social media. Call your friend to verify it was they contacted you (and share this Scam Alert with them if they are spreading false information).
For more information about scams in the wake of coronavirus, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.
If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.