During times of crisis, scammers will use feelings of uncertainty and worry against you. Below are scams that have come up in relation to COVID-19. For more information on fraud, scams, and how to protect yourself, visit our Fraud and Security blog page.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also set up alerts for consumers. Visit the FTC website to sign up for email updates.
General Scam Tips
- Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state, and local government agencies.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and medical supplies when they don't, or they'll charge much more than legitimate sellers.
- As always, don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer and result in personal information being stolen.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation, and refuse to donate in the form of cash, gift cards, or wiring of money.
- Monitor your credit reports. All three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies are offering free weekly credit reports through April 2021. Request these reports at annualcreditreport.com.
- Read more tips for handling the financial impact of COVID-19.
Unemployment Benefits Scams
Due to the high rate of unemployment in Illinois, identity thieves are targeting unemployed individuals in order to gain access to personal information and submit fraudulent unemployment claims. This latest scam involves identity thieves messaging victims via text messages. In these messages, identity thieves falsely claim to be contacting victims on behalf of unemployment agencies. From there, the thieves seek personal information by asking victims to click on links to provide information that the "unemployment agency" needs, such as contact information, driver's license & state ID information, and more.
Unemployment agencies will never request personal information through texts messages nor should they have any reason to ask residents to provide information in order to update their driver's licenses and state IDs.
Read more from the IRS on unemployment benefits scams.
Government Check Scams
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has warned Americans that criminals are likely to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to target financial information, and urged taxpayers to be on the lookout for malicious calls, texts, emails and social media posts that requested financial or other personal information. These scams could lead to identity theft or tax fraud.
In particular, the IRS has highlighted dangerous phishing emails around coronavirus stimulus checks that the agency directly deposits in bank accounts or mails out, in the past and in the future. The IRS will not call you to verify or collect financial information, nor will they send you unexpected emails on the topic. Anyone asking for information and promising that you'll get a faster payment in return is attempting to scam you.
Read more from the IRS on government stimulus checks.
Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it may instead lead to more robocalls. Hang up on robocalls and don’t press any numbers.
Scammers Pretending to be the FDIC
Fraudsters know that people trust the FDIC name, so scammers use the FDIC’s name and logo, and even the names of actual employees, in perpetrating fraudulent schemes. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself against government imposters like these:
- The FDIC does not send unsolicited correspondence asking for money or sensitive personal information, and will never threaten you.
- No government agency will ever demand that you pay by gift card, wiring money, or digital currency.
- The FDIC would never contact you asking for personal details, such as bank account information, credit and debit card numbers, social security numbers, or passwords.
If in doubt, contact the FDIC's Call Center at 1-877-275-3342 Monday - Friday 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST.
For more information, visit the FDIC's website.