A recent Times and Democrat story reported on an Orangeburg man telling sheriff's deputies he was robbed at gunpoint as he was gambling with his federal stimulus money.
Most people won't lose their money in such a fashion, but the distribution of $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans has given rise to unprecedented online scams.
The Federal Trade Commission has received 18,235 reports of fraud costing victims $13.44 million; Google reported it is blocking 18 million scam emails every single day; and 150,000 fraudulent stimulus check sites have already launched.
SocialCatfish.com released a report, "5 Stimulus Check Online Scams to Avoid," based on information from the FTC, FBI and Internal Revenue Service during the coronavirus pandemic.
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. In reality, they want your information so that they can pretend to be you, claim the check for themselves. They can also drain your bank account of your funds with this information and will keep the fee for themselves with no check, in return.
How to avoid: Do not give out any personal information. The government already has your information on file from when you filed your taxes. The stimulus check will either be automatically deposited into your account or you will get it mailed to your house.
2) Email and text scams: Scammers will pretend to be the IRS or federal government by emailing or texting you a link to click to receive your check. If you click on the link your electronic device will get plagued with malware and your information gets stolen.
How to avoid: Do not click on any links that are emailed or texted to you. Again, the government already has your information and checks are either directly deposited or mailed.
3) Identify theft scams: If you have not received your stimulus check yet and the official IRS website says otherwise, it could be possible that you are a victim of identity theft. This means that a scammer has found a way to steal your information, like your SSN, and has claimed your stimulus check for themselves.
How to avoid: If you believe you have been a victim of this kind of fraud, you can report it at https://identitytheft.gov/.
4) Google search scam: Scammers have created copies of the official IRS “Get My Payment” site and have updated their search engine terms so that people conducting google searches for information find these fake sites. Once a person finds their site, they think it is the official IRS website and will enter their information.
How to avoid: Do not go on any website to get your stimulus check unless it is an official .gov or .ca site and beware of being redirected to a website from a non-reputable news source.
5) Third-party stimulus check scams: Scammers have come up with their own stimulus check programs claiming that they can give you additional money along with the government. They will send you letters in the mail, put pamphlets on your car, or send you an email or social media message trying to advertise their program.
How to avoid: Only believe in the stimulus check programs announced by the government reported by reputable news outlets. If you cannot find it reported by reputable news outlets, it is a scam.
South Carolinians should be aware they are prime targets for scammers.
An analysis by Construction Coverage, a review site for commercial auto and workers compensation insurance, found that South Carolina recorded 10,851 identity theft reports in 2019. For every 100,000 residents, South Carolina experienced the ninth most identity theft reports among all U.S. states.
And beware of thinking scams only effect older people. The FTC received the most identity theft reports for people ages 30-39.
According to the The Identity Theft Resource Center, millennials are more willing to share their personal data online and less fearful of their information being compromised than other age groups — a combination that makes them especially vulnerable.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.