With confirmation that the U.S. government will soon be mailing checks to many Americans to alleviate the economic burden of COVID-19, scammers and thieves are salivating at the potential windfall they’ll soon be able to hustle out of innocent people.
Thankfully, information from the Federal Trade Commission and some common sense is all that is needed to beat these lowlifes at their own game.
Regardless of what distribution of the checks looks like or how Americans qualify, the FTC lays down some easy-to-follow guidelines to keeping your money safe.
“The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money,” the FTC states on its website. “No fees. No charges. No nothing.”
That means there will be no processing fees or handling charges. Anyone telling you otherwise is trying to pry your hard-earned money away from you, likely before a check even arrives in your mailbox.
“The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number,” the website warns. “Anyone who does is a scammer.”
Those attempting to get this information out of you, especially if they’re calling from an out-of-state area code and boast a suspicious New Delhi accent, should be ignored and blocked if your phone has that ability.
While the modern phone is an invaluable piece of technology that can connect you with the entire world, it also gives scammers around the globe a direct link to you.
“These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality,” the FTC warning continues. “Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.”
It appears the FTC’s post, which is dated March 18, predates confirmation of the checks by the administration of President Donald Trump.
One deviously crafty way scammers may attempt to exploit the payments is a fake check scam, where a phony check is mailed to the victim. Once deposited, the scammer asks any “overpayment” to be wired directly back to them.
Once the check is found to be bad, the scammer is long gone and the victim is on the hook for the full amount lost.
Even if the government-issued stimulus payment makes it into your bank account untouched, that doesn’t mean scammers will give up on extracting money from you any way they can.
A separate warning from the FTC makes it clear that the global coronavirus pandemic is a goldmine for those seeking to make their money the wrong way.
Fake sellers may advertise goods that are currently hard to find, like masks, hand sanitizer or toilet paper. Once you pay for the product, it never ships. The scammer closes shop and walks away with your cash.
Snake oil salesmen, those staples of the old American West, didn’t die out alongside cowboys and Indians, but thrive at times like these.
Although some treatments looks promising for combating a SARS-CoV-2 infection, there’s currently no magic cure. Anyone who claims to have medicine, salves, berries or pills that can cure COVID-19 is a liar, plain and simple.
Following these simple guidelines and practicing common sense is the best way to keep your money where it belongs — safe in your bank account.
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