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Don’t click on these dangerous new scams promising free money

At this point in time, a majority of Americans have already received their stimulus checks from the federal government. Despite some initial issues with the rollout, the checks eventually arrived in the form of direct bank deposits, paper checks, and debit cards to millions of people over the past several weeks.

But not everyone qualified for a stimulus check right off the bat. In fact, many Americans were shocked to find out the IRS had issues with their previous tax returns or on-file mailing information. Tap or click here to see what the “Payment Status Not Available” message actually means.

And now, months after the stimulus checks were formally approved by Congress, people are hoping the government will approve a second round of checks to ease the economic impact of COVID-19. There aren’t any plans to do so as of yet, but that hasn’t stopped scammers from exploiting these hopes to infect unsuspecting victims with malware. Here’s how.

More stimulus scams are spreading online

If you look up information about stimulus aid on Google, you might want to be careful about clicking on the results you find. According to the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), Google has been serving up a number of suspicious advertisements for scam sites as part of normal search results for stimulus information.

The ads themselves appear to violate Google’s own terms of service due to their dishonest nature. The ones spotted by TTP allegedly direct people “…to sites that solicit fees for checks, gather personal information, or sneak “unwanted software” into their web browsers.”

Related: Tap or click here to see the top 5 stimulus scams circulating online.

Google has since responded to TTP’s claims, stating that the company removes offending ads as they’re discovered should they violate the terms of service. As good as this is, however, it doesn’t stop malicious advertisers from continuing to purchase ad space in a deceptive manner. If they got through once, there’s no doubt they’ll try to get through again.

I want more information on upcoming stimulus checks and financial aid. What should I do?

The safest thing you can do while looking up information on Google, at this time, is to ignore the sponsored links and ads that appear at the top and sides of your search results page. These ads are placed purely in the interest of making money, and since the government isn’t charging you anything to give you a check, you have no reason to click on them.

That said, it may be possible for scammers to game the search engines even further and pump their websites to the top of page 1. To stay safe, here are some things to keep in mind about stimulus money and government financial aid:

  • The government will never communicate with you via email, website or phone. The IRS, which is handling disbursement of stimulus money, only communicates via snail-mail. You might get a letter, but never an “urgent” message in your inbox.
  • The government will never ask for personal information online or charge you to get your aid. If you visit the IRS Get My Payment website, you may be asked to provide some basic information to locate your account, but this is voluntary, and will not affect your eligibility.
  • Third-party companies are not affiliated with the disbursement of stimulus money, nor are they able to “expedite” your payment. This is completely false, and websites that make this claim should be ignored.
  • As of 6/19/20, there are no plans to distribute any additional stimulus monies to Americans. Should this change, you can bet will keep you informed. You can also continue to visit the IRS’s official homepage for more information as it comes out.

One of the most annoying parts of the internet is the sheer amount of misinformation that continues to spread. By knowing the truth behind these stories of interest, you can protect yourself from getting ripped off (or worse).

Stay informed, stay skeptical and above all, stay safe. If you avoid clicking on unfamiliar links or sharing data with unknown entities, you won’t end up losing money while you’re searching for ways to collect more. Tap or click here to see a stimulus scam so convincing the IRS is sending out warnings.

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