“This is just an unprecedented event for scammers, and they are going to take full advantage of this,” said Sue McConnell, President, and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland.
McConnell said the BBB has already received reports about stimulus-related scams in Northeast Ohio.
“Knowing that people are going to be receiving checks that are deposited into their accounts is very ripe ground for a scammer to try to reach out to you to claim there’s something you need to do in order to get that check,” she said.
She said scammers might try to solicit personal information via links sent through messages or emails or by phone.
Experts remind to never give out personal information including your bank account and social security number. The IRS and Treasury Department will never contact you to verify information or to confirm payment details.
“The government is not going to reach out to you individually and ask you to do anything to get this money,” McConnell said.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman said his office is on the lookout for scammers and plans to pursue serious federal charges against them.
“There are a variety of different fraud statutes that are in play, a variety of identity theft money laundering violations that could be in play, all of which carry the potential for substantial jail time,” Herdman said.
The IRS said the only people who need to take action to receive a stimulus payment are those who are not on social security who did not file a 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return. They must proactively provide information through an online portal.
“If you get a phone call from someone purporting to be from the IRS or Treasury Department, that’s a tip that it’s a scam,” Herdman said.
Herdman said if you think you’ve fallen victim, alert your bank, credit card company and credit reporting agency.
Then, report fraud related to the COVID-19 crisis to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or email tips to the United States Attorney’s Office at USAOHN.COVID19@usdoj.gov for authorities to pursue charges.