As we try to adjust to a life that includes less time in the office, fewer trips to the grocery store and missing out on family gatherings, we are all spending more time with technology. From corresponding through emails to using delivery apps for our favorite restaurant meals, our screen time has definitely increased.
Unfortunately, as more consumers interact through these channels, they are more exposed to scammers who take advantage not only of our screen time but also of our anxieties and uneasiness as we navigate this storm.
“Cybercriminals use emergencies such as COVID-19 to get people to make decisions quickly,” states a World Health Organization advisory. “Always take time to think about a request for your personal information, and whether the request is appropriate.”
We want to help you learn how to prevent internet scams, so we have outlined a few of the more common types of fraud you may experience, as well as ways to stay safe and avoid becoming a victim.
Notifications About Checks from the Government
The IRS will not call, text or email you to get banking information for your stimulus check, so do not give this information over the phone. If anyone calls you asking for your social security number or your bank account numbers to deposit your stimulus check, hang up. They are most likely scammers.
Also, don’t click on any links in emails that you think are coming to your inbox from the IRS. In most cases, if you meet the established income limits, you do not need to do anything to receive the check. The IRS should have all of the information they need to process your Economic Impact Payment, based on the information on either your 2018 or 2019 taxes.
The IRS has also provided an online link called “Get My Payment” where you can track the status of your deposit.
Overpayment of Stimulus Checks
There have been many reports of a stimulus check scam. Know that the IRS will not overpay you and then call or contact you to ask you to send some of the money back because they accidentally overpaid you. This is a stimulus check scam to try to get people to send the extra back, usually in the form of gift cards or bank transfers. When people fall victim to this scam, it is usually because the scammer has posed as someone from the IRS or a government entity, so it sounds official.
Emails and Text Messages with Attachments
Be aware of the emails you receive, and don’t open any attachments or click on any links within a message from people you don’t know. Phishing emails and texts appear as though they are from a company you can trust, but they are an attempt to get your personal information. The scammer may say something to make you react out of fear and concern for a loved one or a friend, or they may claim there is an issue with your account or your personal information that needs to be cleared up.
Phishing scams can be avoided by backing up your data, setting automatic security software updates on your phones and computers, and using two layers of passcode protection on your devices and accounts. If you feel you may have given information to an unreliable source, update your usernames and passwords.
With many people out of work, there is an increase in work-from-home job postings as scammers know people are facing financial hardship and looking for remote employment. Remember that a company that is authentic will not ask for money to apply for a job or charge you a fee. According to research by FlexJobs, some of the scams include data-entry, making crafts, envelope stuffing, online re-packaging and shipping, and processing rebates.
Staying vigilant as your browse the internet, being aware of where and to whom you share personal information, and ignoring phone calls and emails from strangers are good steps to avoiding being taken advantage of. It is important for you to follow these tips as you learn how to prevent internet scams from hurting you. If you need to report a scam or file a complaint specifically related to COVID-19, there are resources that will help you either through the IRS directly or the Federal Trade Commission.