Americans are expected to start receiving monetary support from the government soon. In most cases, money would be directly deposited into the banking accounts associated with peopleโ€™s tax returns. The funds will help US citizens, legal permanent residents, and people with valid social security numbers, fight the economic instability caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package signed by the Trump administration will start reaching the bank accounts of the needy in the next few weeks. The government is also planning to launch a web-based system that would allow eligible citizens to upload their details and get immediate access to the funds allocated for them.

While Americans are undoubtedly excited to receive stimulus money, they are now a target of hackers from all over the world too. IRS issued a statement confirming that online stimulus check scams are on the rise, and fraudsters are actively posing as government officials. They are trying to lure potential victims via text, email, and social media messages. In most cases, cybercriminals are asking potential victims to reconfirm their personal information by filling a bogus online form. The information given away by the victims would then be used by hackers to commit fraud. Scammers are using offline tactics too โ€“ they mail physical forms that look like forms coming from a federal agency, asking potential victims to “verify” their details. The disclosed information is then again used by scammers to commit a crime.

Criminals do not always pose as government officials โ€“ FBI warned of fraud scheme messaging that promises a “stimulus check” money from retailers. The messages invite potential victims to click on a malicious link that tries to steal their identity, financial, or other personal information. The message most often seen in Southern California reads, “$110 goodies from Costco! That’s our stimulus package for Costco loyal customers.” Other types of scams often seen in these uncertain times include fraudsters selling bogus respirator masks, toilet paper, gloves, and other hygiene equipment materials. There are also a whole bunch of websites and apps that claim to track Covid-19 cases but are malicious and aimed to steal sensitive personal information from you,

What are the signs that you may be opening a malicious email or may be targeted with a scam?

Scammers are actively trying to steal your hard-earned cash, personal information, or both. One of the first signs often observed by people who are targeted by hackers is the fact that they offer you early access to the money, or they ask for money upfront โ€“ there is no such thing as early access to the funds. It is also important to remember that money will not end either โ€“ if money is allocated for you, one way or another, you will get them. Another popular sign that the message you received is malicious is when it asks you to reconfirm your identity. In essence, it may prompt a message for you to provide your drivers’ license number, social security number, or other similar information. If you are asked such questions โ€“ you are probably being scammed.

IRS has said on multiple occasions that they are not reaching out to people who receive stimulus payments and would never request personal information of any kind over the phone or via email. If you receive a message that you suspect is a scam, IRS asks you to forward it toย, or to file a complaint on the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you want to be prepared when hackers target you, you can always install top antivirus software on your connected devices โ€“ having a layer of protection makes you a tough target for criminals.

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