The caller to the T&D newsroom was serious about not wanting to conduct any kind of business or messaging online. To paraphrase him: If you’ve been an ID theft victim, you’ll know why.
Sadly, a sign of the times is an actual a week devoted to identification theft prevention. The S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs noted the observance of ID Theft Awareness Week from Jan. 31-Feb. 6 by warning consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for scams:
• COVID-19 vaccine scam. No state or federal agency will contact consumers to offer a COVID-19 vaccine in return for private information or money. There is no way to “skip the line” and you cannot get the vaccine faster than others if you do not qualify.
• Tax fraud. Scammers always come out of the woodwork to celebrate tax season, which begins Feb. 12. These scams usually involve a phone call, text or email from someone posing as the “IRS.” The legit or real IRS will not contact consumers to ask for personal information.
• Phishing emails or texts. Inboxes often get messages from impostors acting like a shipping company or other trustworthy organization. Remember, don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
A fourth scam referenced by SCDCA involves stimulus payments from the government. And a website devoted to keeping people safe online, SocialCatfish.com, is reporting the checks are a particular scammer target right now, citing unprecedented online scams that broke the $300 million milestone.
The FTC has received more than 340,668 reports of fraud relating to coronavirus, costing victims more than $321 million as of Feb. 3, according toSocialCatfish.com. Google reported during the first stimulus it was blocking 18 million scam emails every single day; and 150,000 fraudulent stimulus check sites were launched.
The IRS reported 2.4 million payments totaling $4.1 billion were made in South Carolina for the first round of stimulus checks. With another stimulus upcoming, those looking to scam South Carolinians and any American will be working overtime.
SocialCatfish.com released a report on the four top stimulus check scams, basing its advice on information from the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI and the IRS:
1. ROBOCALL CHECK SCAMS: The scammer will call pretending to be the IRS and ask for your personal financial information. They will claim they need this to deposit the stimulus check into your account and will also ask for a fee to deposit said check. The truth is, they want your information so that they can pretend to be you and claim the check for themselves. They can also drain your bank account with this information and will keep the fee for themselves for good measure. Do not give out any personal information.
2. EMAIL AND TEXT SCAMS: Scammers will send you a phishing email, text message, or message on social media claiming that they are the government. They may email you telling you to click on a link to “verify” information, or text message you a link to fill out an application to receive your check. Do not click on any links that are emailed or texted to you.
3. FAKE WEBSITE: If you click on suspicious links, they will likely take you to fake websites that will download malware onto your device and steal your information to drain your bank account. These sites also contain fake forms so any personal or financial information you provide will go to the scammer. Do not go to any website that does not end in “.gov.” There are no non-government websites giving stimulus checks.
4. PHONY CHECKS: Scammers have been mailing fake checks that look exactly like the official government-issued paper stimulus checks. Once deposited, the scammers text you pretending to be the government asking for some of the money back claiming too much was sent. Make sure the check is legitimate, ask your bank to verify it.
If you encounter a coronavirus scam, contact local law enforcement, or file a complaint with the FTC. For more information on the status of your stimulus check, visit the IRS website.