Not even a pandemic can keep scammers from scamming.
Unfortunately, we live in a time where if there is money changing hands, there will be unscrupulous folks trying to intercept it. And so, with the federal government handing out billions of dollars in relief funds intended to help Americans get through these tough economic times, it should come as no surprise that there are already scams popping up in which con artists attempt to swindle you out of your rightful share.
The Federal Trade Commission has already received thousands of reports of scammers stealing – or attempting to steal – millions in stimulus funds, often by unsolicited phone calls or texts.
Because many of these scams can have lingering effects that can harm your current financial situation, your future goals and even your San Antonio retirement, we wanted to alert you to 3 specific scenarios that you may come across.
Remember, the most effective way to protect yourself against becoming the victim of one of these criminal scams is to arm yourself with knowledge and information. Beware of red flags, and refresh yourself on ways you can protect yourself from fraud.
1. Stimulus Check Scams
One way that scammers may try to steal from you is by sending you a bogus check, often for more than you were expecting to receive. The scammers then wait for you to deposit the check, then contact you and ask you to return the overage by wire transfer or money order. To make matters worse, the original check will bounce and you’ll be responsible for bank fees.
Do not cash any check before validating its whereabouts.
2. Debt Reduction Scams
Another type of scam that has picked up steam in today’s environment involves a fraudulent offer from your bank or loan servicer to help you reduce debt, or set up or adjust a payment plan. The hope is to trick you into “confirming” your account by providing personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number or mother’s maiden name – all information that can be used to steal your identity.
The Better Business Bureau has received multiple reports of scammers specifically claiming to be from student loan servicers, offering to help student loan borrowers defer payments. The federal government is allowing anyone with federal student loans to skip making monthly payments on their loans through September as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. However, you should check with your specific loan servicer for information about your loan. If someone calls and asks you to provide or confirm information about your student loan account to facilitate the payment deferment, validate the call first by calling the number you have on file directly and asking about the offer.
3. Charity Scams
We also want you to be aware of fake charities and scammers hoping to take advantage of your generosity during times of crisis.
Scammers might even use real names, images and stories to trick you into thinking you’re giving to someone with a true need.
Don’t let yourself be pressured or rushed into making a donation. A legitimate charitable organization will appreciate any contribution, no matter how much or how soon. If a caller makes you feel like you need to donate right now, that should raise a red flag.
As with any charitable giving, protect yourself by doing your due diligence and researching any person or organization you plan to donate to before you hand over any money.
How to Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus Scams
One thing that everyone should know is that you don’t have to do anything in order to receive your stimulus check. If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, you will receive the funds automatically based on the information you provided on those returns. If the IRS has your financial institution and account number on file, they will directly deposit your check electronically. Otherwise, you’ll receive a paper check in the mail. (The IRS warns that it may take up to 20 weeks to get all the checks in the mail.)
Another way to protect yourself from fraud is to know the facts about your payment by checking the official IRS website dedicated to economic impact payments. Knowing how much you should be receiving and when the money should arrive will help you spot a fake check or identify scammers when they call. It is here that you can also find out the specifics of your payment, check the processing status or see if the IRS needs more information from you.
Tips for Spotting Fraudulent Emails, Calls and Requests
It’s important to note that the IRS and all other government entities refer to the stimulus checks as an “economic impact payment” or “economic impact assistance.” They will not call it a “stimulus check” or “Coronavirus payment.” If someone contacts you and uses these terms, chances are it’s a scam.
Also, the IRS or Social Security Administration will not call, text or email you to ask about your money, your personal information or your bank account and routing numbers. Any communication will be done through mail.
PAX Financial Group will also never request private information without a secure way to provide it.
That means that any kind of call, text, email or social media request from someone claiming to be from the IRS or the Social Security Administration should be regarded as highly suspicious and ignored altogether or reported to the relevant authorities. Don’t click on a link in an email you’re suspicious about or give out sensitive information, such as personal details, credit card or bank account numbers, usernames or passwords over the phone, via email or in a text.
In addition, it is very unlikely that the IRS will send you too much money and then ask you to return the overpayment. The IRS will not contact you to verify your account or personal details, and you should not be sent a password to access your funds, your account or anything else.
Don’t let scammers derail your San Antonio retirement plans. If you have questions about your financial well-being, contact us. We’re here to help.
This material is provided by PAX Financial Group, LLC. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information herein has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note: Investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All market indices discussed are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment. Indices do not incur management fees, costs and expenses, and cannot be invested into directly. All economic and performance data is historical and not indicative of future results.