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Security & privacy

The new, convincing tactic phone scammers are using to steal your money

As part of the recently passed COVID stimulus package, many Americans will receive early payments from the child tax credit. Those are scheduled to be mailed out by the IRS between July and December.

The first half of the child tax credit will be allocated during the scheduled 6 month period, and the rest will be completed when you file your taxes. But whenever money is being sent to citizens, criminals are gearing up to steal it.

Scammers have already started to target potential victims, and recent research unveiled what length they will go. Phone scams that use COVID-19 or stimulus checks as bait have increased by nearly 1,000% since March alone.

Here’s the backstory

Caller identification company Hiya discovered that stimulus check phone scams have been skyrocketing over the last couple of months. In fact, they reached an all-time high this month, with over 1.1 million malicious calls made.

“We first started seeing instances of other coronavirus-themed scams in user complaints in late January. These fraud calls range from health insurance-related inquiries to home sanitation services for virus prevention, to scammers offering fake COVID-19 cures, for a price,” Hiya explained in a blog post.

According to its research, the most popular scams are:

  • Asking for your bank info, as it’s supposedly needed for direct deposit of the stimulus check.
  • Requesting additional personal information, like your Social Security number, to deposit the check that day.
  • Fake companies or government agencies offering loan forgiveness or loan advances.
  • Fake government agencies claiming an individual’s SSN is no longer active/valid.

Where are the calls coming from?

Most of the fraudulent calls are traced to specific geographic areas in the U.S., from Oregon all the way to West Virginia. The calls originate from:

  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • West Virginia
  • San Diego, California

What you can do about it

When answering a call with an unknown number, be cautious what you tell them, the information you divulge, or the details that the caller requires. Most callers will start out being friendly until they won over your trust – which is when they pounce.

  • Never pick up an unknown call – Don’t answer or return calls from numbers you can’t identify. If the call is important, they will leave a message.
  • Know the rules – One thing to keep in mind is that government agents will never call and ask for your banking information or Social Security number.
  • Safeguard your personal details – Never provide personal information to unknown callers. If you do have official business to conduct, make sure that you find an official phone number to reach the agency and make the call yourself.
  • Report scam callers – If you receive a scam call, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. It will use and share your report with law enforcement partners to help with investigations.

Keep reading

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