Scammers Jump on Pandemic Fears

Most of us are preoccupied with staying at home, learning to work remotely and keeping children from going stir-crazy. Scammers see these grim times as an opportunity to jump on our fears about health and finances. I guess it’s their “job,” but still…

The last thing that people need right now is someone adding to their stress when they are looking for answers about how to pay their bills and maintain their health. But scammers know when people are vulnerable and open to solutions that sound too good to be true. And they’re smart! Scammers pivot from their everyday crimes and refine them for the “fear of the day.”

Man wearing a mask in dark room in front of computer

Only days after pandemic fears became widespread, the Better Business Bureau was already reporting that government imposters are calling about COVID-19 relief. As part of the scam, callers suggest that you might qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant, after first verifying your identity by asking for confidential information. Variations on the scheme involve contacts through text messages and social media posts. 

Other twists on the scam suggest that you can get more money from the government – or get your stimulus check faster – if you share personal details and pay a small “processing fee.” Do not take the bait! Stimulus checks are free money from the government. You do not need to spend money to receive your check. And there are no short-cuts – even for a fee.

The Internal Revenue Service will deposit your check into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return or send you a paper check. The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information – even if someone claims it is necessary to get your stimulus check. It is a scam. The IRS has information about detecting and reporting imposters trying to take your hard-earned money at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.

Protect yourself! If you receive a call, do not engage with scammers or thieves, just hang up. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them.

Perhaps one day, scammers will turn their efforts to non-criminal activity. Until then, keep your guard up and don’t let scammers jump on your pandemic fear.