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Online Scams

Government checks and the coronavirus: Watch out for scams

Cash could help ease some of the financial strain being experienced by many tied to the coronavirus. That’s why the U.S. government has proposed a plan to send money by check or direct deposit to many Americans.

But already the Federal Trade Commission is warning Americans to watch out for scams related to the financial-relief effort.

For instance, scammers might pose as federal employees and try to trick you into providing sensitive personal information such as your Social Security number. The scammers might say — by email, phone call, in person, or by other means — that they need the information to send you money.

What should you do? Don’t provide any information. It’s a scam.

Keep in mind, as of March 20, 2020, the government hasn’t finalized plans for the payments. But the FTC says it’s important to start protecting yourself against scams now.

3 ways to tell it’s a scam

It’s smart to keep these three things in mind, according to an FTC blog post.

  1. The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.xs
  2. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
  3. The reports of government checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.

How to report scams

If you detect a scam or become a victim of one, it’s important to report it. Here’s how.

You can report a scam to the FTC. Visit www.ftc.gov/complaint. Your information may help the FTC identify and prosecute scammers. It can also help the agency inform the public about new scams.

To find out more about coronavirus-related scams, go to www.ftc.gov/coronavirus. You can also sign up to get consumer alerts.

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