Online Security Amidst COVID-19 Part 2: Fake Stimulus Checks
- Pete Boergermann
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures have accelerated the adoption of digital technology and online platforms by the masses. From social media to video conferencing to Mobile Banking and telemedicine, these new ways to connect are not only convenient, but they’re becoming essential to everyday life.
Fraudsters and cybercriminals now have millions of potential new victims and multiple government agencies are reporting increases in this type of criminal activity. At C&N, we’ve invested in strong cyber-defense systems to protect our customers and we’ve built libraries of resources to share with you. Our goal is to help you stay informed & prepared so you can confidently enjoy the conveniences of modern technology.
In the second part of our “Safe&Secure: Online Security Amidst COVID-19” series, we’ll share some tips to protect yourself from a new stimulus check scam that fraudsters are using to steal your identity. Thousands of new COVID-19- and Coronavirus-related domain names have surfaced recently and could potentially be used in these crimes.
How does it work?
The government is sending out stimulus checks as part of the federal relief response to the Coronavirus. Scammers heard the same thing and they’re hoping to cash in. Stories are surfacing about these scams which are sent via email, text and letters with official-looking checks. Scammers use information they’ve found online to impersonate employers and employees. With the correct company and receivers' names, they seem legitimate and are getting people to click on a link or open an attachment. One person received a personalized text telling her that “$1,000 to help you past the outbreak has been pre-accepted.” It included a link to a fake website.
If a fraudster can collect this type of information, they will use it to steal a person's identity and rob them.
How can I prevent this from happening?
First, remember that you don’t need to do anything to receive your stimulus money. Here are some things to know:
- DO NOT give anyone your personal information to “sign-up” for your relief check. There is no need to sign up for anything. Anyone calling to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security Number, PayPal account or bank information is a scammer, plain and simple. Also, be on the lookout for email phishing scams, where scammers pretend to be from the government and ask for your information as part of the “sign-up” process for the checks.
- DO NOT communicate with anyone other than the IRS at irs.gov/Coronavirus to set up a direct deposit of your check. And you ONLY need to do this if you didn’t give the IRS your bank information on your 2018 or 2019 tax return. In the coming weeks, the IRS will be setting up an online form available on irs.gov/Coronavirus. But nowhere else, and NEVER in response to an email, text or call.
- DO NOT believe that someone has early access to this money. Anyone that claims this is a scammer. The timeline for this process is not exact, we do know that funds started going out this week. Scammers are using the lack of detail to try to trick people into giving their personal information and money.
- DO be suspicious if you receive a “stimulus check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents) or a check that requires you to verify the payment online or by calling a number - it’s a fraud.
What should I do if I fall victim to stimulus check fraud?
If you’ve been tricked into supplying your account information only, contact your bank and let them know. The faster you report what happened, the more likely you’ll recover your money.
If you provided any personal identifying information, like your SSN, you may become a victim of identity theft and should take the following steps:
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov for more information on Identity threats.
- Monitor your credit reports by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Contact the FBI at www.ic3.gov and report what happened so that the scammers can be tracked and stopped.
- Report what happened to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker at www.bbb.com/scamtracker so they can alert others.
Although it’s unfortunate that fraudsters are taking advantage of this global event, you can take precautions to protect yourself. The C&N team is committed to keeping you informed & prepared so that you can stay safely connected from your home or office.
For more helpful articles and information about staying safe & secure online, visit our C&N Library. Also, look for the next part of our series, “Safe&Secure: Online Security Amidst COVID-19,” to be published soon.
Pete Boergermann joined C&N in 1998 and has served as VP Information Technology Manager/Information Security Officer since 2006. In his new role as the Director of Information Security, he is responsible for managing the information security program at C&N, while also championing IT security to make it a critical part of C&N’s business operations.
A United States Air Force Veteran, Pete graduated from the BAI Graduate School of Bank Operations through Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management in 2006 and completed the Pennsylvania Bankers Association’s (PBA) School of Banking in 2009. He earned his credentials as a Certified Information Executive from USC Upstate Campus’s Institute for CIO Excellence in 2016. He also puts his expertise to valuable use as a member of the PBA IT Technology Committee and Chair of the PBA Cyber Sub-committee.
In his spare time, Pete serves as a School Board Member of New Covent Academy and as an Elder at the Church of the New Covent and volunteers for Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally and the Annual Laurel Classic Mountain Bike Challenge. He lives in Wellsboro with his wife, Cassie, and has three daughters, Alyssa, Joy and Mikaela.