CYBERSECURITY AND COVID-19 - Scammers are taking advantage of fears

Posted on: 4/3/20 by John J. Unser, CISO

Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus

Growing fear over the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a rise in scam activity, counterfeit products, price gouging and fake cures. 
“Cyber criminals are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic as a gateway to steal your identity your money or even both,” said John J. Unser, CISO, Information Technology Director and Vulnerability Assessor at Marvin and Company, P.C.

Most of the nation is eagerly waiting to receive their stimulus checks to catch up on mortgage payents, put food on the table or support the local community, it's time to be extra vigilant.

If you’re set up to receive your tax refund by direct deposit, then the money’s just going to appear in your bank account, just like the tax refund would. The federal government will not reach out to you directly. If someone contacts you asking for personal, financial or other private information, they are a scammer.

Here's a list of five common scams around stimulus checks to look out for:

1. Fake checks
Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax lawyer and senior contributor for Forbes, wrote that rumors of people receiving fake stimulus checks are floating around. 

"If you receive a 'stimulus check' in the mail now, it's a fraud — it will take the Treasury a few weeks to mail those out," Phillips Erb wrote. As of now, the IRS seems to be forgoing paper checks all together in favor of direct deposit.

"If you receive a 'stimulus check' for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it's a fraud," she said.

2. Social media messages asking for personal information
The Better Business Bureau says fraudsters are sending out messages via social media, and sometimes via text, that contain links asking a person to enter "personal information and/or banking details." These messages claim the information is "necessary" to receive your stimulus check. 

Just remember: The US government — and especially the IRS — will never get in touch with you on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform.

3. A fake agency asking for your Social Security number
Another variation of the social media messages scam brings users to a fake website called the "US Emergency Grants Federation" and asks for your Social Security number to verify your eligibility, according to the Better Business Bureau

"Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists," the Better Business Bureau site reads. "Find contact info on your own and call them to be sure the person you've heard from is legitimate."

4. Claims that a 'processing fee' will get your money to you sooner
Yet another scam claims that you can get additional money or get your money immediately if you share personal details and "pay a small 'processing fee.'" In reality, there's no way to speed up the IRS payment process.

"If you have to pay money to claim a 'free' government grant, it is not really free," the Better Business Bureau warns. "A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is"

5. Any correspondence claiming to be the Treasury Department
The IRS is a bureau of the Treasury Department, and it isn't exactly modern. The agency most often gets in touch with taxpayers via snail mail. In the case of the stimulus checks, the IRS is relying on direct deposit information provided on recent tax returns to send out payments.

"If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond. These are scams," the Treasury Department warns on its website.  


Have questions, contact your Marvin and Company, P.C. representative.

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