It is disheartening to think that there are scammers, thieves, cheats and frauds out there working to cheat Americans out of their stimulus payments in the middle of this pandemic threat. These scum particularly concentrate on those who are most vulnerable to promises of a quicker payment and asking for personal information. One such scam by phone and email, “Grandma Jones (not grandma’s real name) we are offering a no interest loan that you can repay as soon as the government sends your check. That way you can get the money right now. Does that sound good?” Of course there is no valid loan or lending company. The real intent is to get your personal information and bank routing numbers. Not only will they take your stimulus check but will take everything in your account. Now that these snakes have all of ‘grandma Jones’ personal information (identity theft) they can now make applications for loans, department store lines of credit and any thing they can do to to milk your good name, so long as they can get more cash and prizes.
This is from the IRS: History has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need. Legitimate investigators (Some scammers pretend to be investigators) would love to catch these crooks red-handed and put them in jail. The issue is that today’s scams are done online or by phone, no numeric tracks are left, call back numbers are dead lines and money trades from one account to another which makes it nearly impossible for investigators to track the thieves down.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig: "That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don't open them or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information."
Taxpayers should watch not only for emails but text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information. Seniors should be especially careful during this period. Another clever trick is to send a counterfeit IRS check in a slightly odd payment amount. Then a scammer tells the taxpayer to call a ‘special’ number or verify information online in order to cash it. Identity theft on a stick.
Having been a victim (of online piracy) last June, I watched as a scammer took over my account and started buying gift cards in my name. The pirates blocked me as I tried to warn the online retailers of this fraud. It turned out to be an exercise in futility anyway and very frustrating. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft had no intuitive way to contact them, I’m sure other online economic companies do the same. Finally I called my bank, turns out this should have been my first step. The kind bank person told me to unplug my computer, “I already did that.” I said.
“You unplugged it from the wall?” I only turned off the power switch where the surge protector (The strip under your desk amongst the spider webs and dust bunnies where so many of your devices are plugged in) protects my equipment. She said it is necessary to do a hard unplug from the wall, otherwise they can still get in. For updates on current scams go to: IRS.gov from the home page you can get more specific: email@example.com or click through to Coronavirus Tax Relief the site is quickly updated on new scams.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.