Officials say coronavirus stimulus payments can open the door for scammers

Local News

Officials are warning people that the federal stimulus payments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect opening for scammers.

“Anytime there’s a crisis, it’s always an opportunity for people to try to scam others and more so when it has been widely advertised that people are going to receive money as they are going to receive with these stimulus checks and payments that are coming,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan.

Donovan said if the IRS has your direct deposit account number, the money straight will go straight to your bank account. Physical checks won’t be in the mail until May.  He said you should not be receiving any checks in the mail now.

“Right now, the check is not in the mail, so if you get anything in the mail saying, ‘Hey pay us money in order to get your stimulus payment or you owe us money from back-payments or some kind of garnishment,’ that is a scam,” said Donovan.

 Donovan said the IRS will not contact you by any means during this time.

“The IRS is not going to call you, they are not going to text you, they’re not going to e-mail you. You’ll just see it in your bank account,” said Donovan.

Another way scammers are looking to cash in during the pandemic is through social media. According to the Better Business Bureau of upstate New York, social media use has been up 40% since the pandemic started.

In Vermont where school has been cancelled and in New York where schools are on hold, people have been posting senior pictures in support of the class of 2020. However, officials say you might want to think twice before following this trend.

“They think what a great way to reconnect with people. but what you are doing is your giving away the name of your high school the year you graduated,” said Communications Director Better Business Bureau Upstate NY Melanie McGovern.   

McGovern said recent social media trends encourage people to post personal information making it easier for hackers to access private accounts.

“Anytime you set up a bank account, a credit card, they ask you for security questions,” McGovern said. “What are your security questions? Usually you  know, the name of your oldest niece, the make of your first car — that was another trend that was going around,” said McGovern.

Officials say to act as though everything you post is public no matter how secured you think your social media is.

For more information on the stimulus checks and scams, click here.

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