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People are using these scams to go after your stimulus check money

Published Jan 4th, 2021 1:12PM EST
New stimulus check
Image: Andy Dean/Adobe

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  • Now that the federal government has begun the process of sending millions of Americans a new stimulus check for $600, scammers are out in force trying to do what they can to steal some or all of that money.
  • The Better Business Bureau has set up a website containing information that people need to know to avoid falling victim to a stimulus check scam.
  • Among the common scams, con artists are trying to convince people they need to “confirm” some personal information first before they can receive their new stimulus check.

Millions of Americans are poised to get a new stimulus check for $600, or $1,200 for married couples, much faster now than they did in early 2020, when it took as long as several months for those first stimulus checks to actually appear in peoples’ bank accounts — or in their mailboxes, as paper checks.

This money is supposed to help people deal with the ongoing fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, and while the new stimulus checks are nowhere near big enough to reverse the fortunes of someone whose livelihood has been completely wrecked by the public health and economic catastrophe we’ve all been living through, people should at least want to do what they can to not lose any of the money being sent to them right now.

Scammers, unfortunately, are working very hard to ensure that ends up being the case.

The Better Business Bureau has sent out an important alert that people ought to pay attention to, because it contains crucial details for how to avoid falling victim to stimulus check scammers. Something else it might be useful for people to pay attention to and even utilize is the BBB Scam Tracker website, which collects reports from people who’ve received fishy texts, emails, and phone calls about the new stimulus checks.

“Watch out for email or text messages instructing you to click a link to ‘request benefit payments,'” the BBB warns. “The link will take you to an application, which prompts you to enter information in order to ‘make sure you are getting all the payments owed to you.’ Of course, this ‘application’ is really a way to phish for personal details and opens you up to (the) risk of identity theft.”

There’s also a version of this scheme that scammers use the phone to try and pull off. The scammer, according to the BBB, will call you pretending to represent a government agency. You’ll be told you need to either pay some amount of money or “confirm” some personal information before your stimulus check can be sent to you (neither of those things, of course, is true). Additionally, another variant of these schemes involves con artists tempting you with the prospect of receiving stimulus funds immediately or even that you can get extra money if you pay a small “processing fee.”

The BBB’s tips for how to spot a stimulus check scammer — and what to do if you come across one — include:

  • Stay calm. Always resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic, urgent, and maybe even legitimate- sounding the scammer’s story seems to be. Their goal is to trick you into acting before you’ve had a chance to think.
  • Don’t reply directly. If you think there’s a chance the message or communication you’ve received might be real, don’t reply to the scammer. Find the government agency’s contact information and reach out to them directly.
  • Check the “agency’s” name. It should go without saying, but when you’re doing that check-up, make sure the agency you’re supposedly speaking with a representative of actually exists.
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.