TAMPA, Fla. — The first wave of COVID-19 stimulus payments were deposited into bank accounts over the weekend. Over the next couple of weeks, the remainder of the payments will be distributed.
Some families are desperate for that money and scammers know it. The Federal Trade Commission says over the past year, more than $360 million has been lost in stimulus payment scams.
Bryan Oglesby from the Better Business Bureau of West Florida says these scammers are really convincing.
"Scammers are good at their game. They can act like a legitimate business. They can act like a government agency, they can make the phone number that calls you look like the agency because they can do what's called 'caller ID spoofing'. They can make fake websites, they advertise on social media platforms and at the top of search engines."
The FTC says scammers are using people's personal information to make their ploy sound legitimate.
Scammers will promise they'll get your payment to you faster or find you even more stimulus money. Don't fall for it. Oglesby offers these tips:
- Ignore calls, text messages and emails claiming to be from the IRS or another government agency. The IRS will only contact you through the mail when it comes to your money, but also be wary of fake mail checks too.
- Don't reply directly to any of these scam messages. Don't click on any links, don't call the phone numbers the messages provide. If you are worried, look up the government agency online and call the number listed on its contact page.
- Don't offer money or information. Scammers may ask for personal information and claim they can check the status of your check or they may ask for money to fast-track your payment. The IRS will not contact you and ask for these things.
- Report it. Even if you don't fall for the scam, use the BBB Scam Tracker to report it so others in your area can be alerted to scams that will steal their hard-earned money. You can also report it to the FTC.
You should only use the IRS's 'Get my payment' tool to track your check.
Here's an example of a stimulus text scam:
The FTC also warns of other scams happening right now. In one, scammers will offer job opportunities, asking you to pay money to help place you in a job or take out ads online offering ways to make money online. Do your research before you sign up for anything, especially if they ask you to pay.