*This page will be updated as more information is made available.
The Social Security Administration, IRS, FBI and other government agencies are warning the public about a sudden rise in the number of scams due to the Coronavirus crisis.
Here are some useful tips to help protect you and your family from scams and fraud.
What is valuable information to a scammer?
Coronavirus scammers want information about you that is private or can be used to access your bank or other financial accounts, including:
- Medicare numbers
- Social Security numbers
- User IDs and passwords to your PayPal, bank, credit card, and other financial accounts
- Birthdates, home address or other information about you or your family
How are scammers taking advantage of the Coronavirus crisis?
Scammers are taking advantage of the Coronavirus crisis by telling you you will lose your Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income, or the $1200 CARES Act stimulus payment unless you send them money or give them your personal or financial information.
Here is a list of known Coronavirus-related scams:
Social Security beneficiaries report receiving letters threatening to stop Social Security benefits because Social Security closed their offices. The letters tell beneficiaries their payments would be suspended or stopped unless they call the phone number provided in the letter. Beneficiaries who called the phone number were misled into sharing their personal information or sending money to the scammers using retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash.
The Social Security Administration is not stopping or suspending payment of Social Security benefits because their offices have temporarily closed to the public due to Coronavirus concerns. Social Security employees continue to work. Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any communication you receive that says SSA will do so is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.
Social Security will never:
- threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee;
- promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment;
- require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card;
- demand 3 secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem; or
- send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.
How to protect yourself from the scam
If you get a letter, text, call or email telling you there is an alleged problem with your Social Security number, account, or payments, hang up or do not respond. Report Social Security scams using the dedicated online form. Please share this information with your friends and family, to help spread awareness about Social Security scams.
Scammers are offering fake home test kits, fake vaccines, and other fake remedies or cures for Coronavirus or COVID-19 in exchange for your personal or financial information, reports TIME Magazine.
There are no cures or vaccines for COVID-19 or Coronavirus according to the Centers for Disease Control.
There are no home test kits for Coronavirus or COVID-19 available. Only your doctor, health-care professional, or local health department official can test you for the virus.
How to protect yourself from the scam
If you get a letter, text, call, email, or visit from someone offering you home test kits, vaccines, or other fake remedies or cures for COVID-19 or Coronavirus, hang up or do not respond.
The FBI, state attorneys general and other agencies are alerting Americans that phone calls, texts or emails asking for personal or financial information to get the $1,200 federal payment are not legal, reports The USA Today Network.
The real funds do not require a sign-up via phone, online or text in advance of the payment
The Internal Revenue Service will use taxpayer’s 2019 or 2018 tax information to determine if the $1200 amount (single filers) or $2400 (married filers) is suitable for each individual and will be delivered via check or direct deposit
How to protect yourself
If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, or another government agency offering COVID-19 related grants or economic impact 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. Visit Treasury’s website if you suspect economic impact payment fraud. Report Social Security scams about COVID-19.