Security & Fraud

FTC Warns Taxpayers About Stimulus Fraud

Federal Trade Commission

Congress has yet to agree on the next round of stimulus funding, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is already warning the public to beware.

“While there’s a lot we don’t know, we do know a few things about what scammers do when this kind of uncertainty is in the headlines,” wrote by Jennifer Leach, associate director of FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education, on the agency’s blog.

Just like last time, if there’s another stimulus payment, taxpayers won’t have to pay to get it. No one will call to ask for your bank account, credit card or Social Security number, the FTC said.

As in the first distribution of $1,200 checks in the spring, most people will get money direct deposited, or via a debit card or check will be mailed to the address where your taxes were filed.

“Don’t pay to get any economic impact payment, and keep your info to yourself,” Leach wrote.

The FTC also warns consumers not to pay for job opportunities or for online ads promising ways to earn money.

“Scammers know that lots of people need to find a job, and they’ll be happy to charge you for what winds up being nothing,” Leach wrote.

She also warned while it’s illegal for companies to charge fees for mortgage assistance, that doesn’t stop scammers from trying.

For homeowners who expect to be late on a mortgage payment, the FTC advises consumers contact their mortgage servicer to see what options are available.

A recent notice from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) warned that “events with such profound impact” like the coronavirus “routinely create opportunities for financial fraud.”

A survey released last week by SocialCatfish.com, the identity verification nonprofit, reported U.S. losses from COVID-19 fraud have reached nearly $100 million since the pandemic emerged in March.

In May’s Preventing Financial Crimes report, PYMNTS noted phishing attacks are among the most common scams where fraudsters impersonate banks and send emails asking recipients to enter passwords or other authorization details into fraudulent websites that resemble bank portals. This information then falls directly into bad actors’ hands and gives them free rein over victims’ accounts.

Consumers who spot a scam should contact the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

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