On November 3rd, citizens will cast their votes for governors, state officials, or members of Congress, either continuing to support the incumbent or opting to make a change with a new candidate. In any event, the work of campaigning and elections are big business…especially for scammers.

With so much discussion about the mid-term elections, thieves have launched a wide variety of election season scams to steal personally identifiable information, financial resources, or both.

1. Phishing attempts – Candidates and political parties rely on emails and phone calls to connect with voters, and scammers are using the same tactics. By posing as members of a campaign, scammers target their victims with phony donation requests, fake news articles that encourage them to click and input their information to read, and more. The goal in these scams isn’t just money, but also access to your personal data.

2. Donation requests – It takes a lot of money to put on an effective campaign, so political candidates often request donations, host fundraisers, and more. Thanks to online platforms, candidates or their team members can request money via social media and platforms like GoFundMe or PayPal. However, the natural mechanism that allows candidates to do that effectively also means a scammer can do it, too. Be on your guard for similar names, “patriotic”-sounding organizations, and issue or party-centric groups that are not actually affiliated with anyone campaigning.

3. Fake robocalls – There have already been reports of robocalls associated with particular candidates for promotional purposes, and remember, charitable organizations and political ads are two of the categories that are exempt from the Do Not Call registry. However, some of the robocalls have not only been spoofed or use stolen recordings of the candidates, but some of them have also even been highly offensive and designed to get the listener to interact.

So how are you supposed to protect yourself from elections season scams? By using the exact same good habits that are designed to keep you safe from scams throughout the year. Never give out your information or verify your identity to someone who contacts you; never make a spur-of-the-moment donation or spontaneously pay a fee, fine, or bill; remember that anyone can create an email account or website, and it doesn’t take any effort or know-how to copy or mimic an existing organization.

Keep your identity and your finances secure by being cautious about how you interact with the campaign process this year…and don’t forget to vote!


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Multiple people across the country are reporting cases of identity theft involving Small Business Administration (SBA) loans as scammers continue to leverage the data they have gleaned from other breaches.

What It Is

Fraudsters appear to be applying for SBA loans and adding “Farms” to the victim’s first or last names. The new loans “crop” up on their credit report. There is an ongoing investigation into the SBA loan identity theft cases. Investigators believe multiple identity theft rings could be to blame.

What They Are After

If someone gets a hold of your Social security number, they can take out an SBA disaster assistance loan in your name, even if you do not have a small business.

How You Can Avoid It

  • Contact the entity where you receive communication from as soon as possible.
  • Dispute the loan with the credit reporting agency
  • Consider freezing your credit if you do not plan on taking out a loan anytime soon.

If you think you are an identity theft victim involving a Small Business Administration loan, you can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with an expert advisor on the company website.


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Natural disasters and large-scale emergencies are part of our reality, no matter how much we wish that weren’t true. Since you cannot prevent the next earthquake, wildfire, or hurricane, you can make sure you have a plan to be identity safe for when a disaster strikes.

While other knowledgeable sources will help you determine how much clean water or prescription medications you need to store, the Identity Theft Resource Center wants you to plan for a different emergency aspect: identity theft protection and fraud prevention during events like these.

Scammers Prey During Vulnerable Times

Identity theft is a threat when any disaster strikes. After a natural disaster, documents may be accessible to looters who can steal them and commit identity theft with your personal information.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) was created in 2005 to improve and further the detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution of fraud related to natural and human-made disasters, and to advocate for the victims of such fraud. Since their creation, they have had over 100,000 disaster fraud complaints.

Make a Plan

September is National Preparedness Month, and the Federal Trade Commission urges all people to make a plan.

In any emergency, you may have to prove your identity while also being cut off from access to your important papers. During the aftermath of a dangerous event, you may need to be able to access your funds and deal with insurance agents, contractors, maintenance specialists and more.

Secure and Access Your Documents and Funds

Your personal papers can play a strange role during a crisis. They are both proof that you are who you say you are, but they are also a hot commodity for scams, fraud and theft.

Keep them protected at all times, be able to access them in a crisis, but do not let them fall into the wrong hands.

Remember, if you’re evacuating in a sudden emergency like a house fire or flash flood, your documents are not necessary for receiving medical care, emergency housing or other basic needs.

However, there will be instances where you need to provide some proof. When planning your emergency supplies, consider including a small, password-protected flash drive that holds pictures of critical documents to keep yourself identity safe. You will not endanger your originals—or leave them stored unsafely when not needed—but you can call them up when the emergency has passed.

For every other time, make sure you secure your papers from harm and theft in a safe deposit box, home fire safe or another protected place.

As part of any preparedness plan, you need to know how you will get to your money and your insurance documents if you need them. Emergency medical services should be provided without documentation or money to those in crisis. Still, if you’re able to provide things like medical insurance cards for less serious issues, it might be helpful.

To stay identity safe, place your expired medical insurance cards in your preparedness items. That way, the hospital will at least have the information they need to contact your provider and verify your current coverage.

To be prepared, make sure your documents are always stored together in a safe place. If you need access to them, you can grab the entire bundle of birth certificates, marriage certificates, property deeds, Social Security cards and more.

If a disaster separates you permanently from your important papers, contact the proper authorities as soon as it’s safe and feasible to do so.

Beware of Scams

Scammers and fraudulent individuals use news of significant events as a gateway to target victims with everything from repair scams to fake government handouts.

If someone demands your driver’s license or Social Security card before they’re willing to provide assistance, you might be dealing with a scammer. Be careful about who you deal with after an event, and get all price quotes in writing before work begins.

If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter, even if they claim to be a state or federal emergency management official, do not give out your personal information. It will keep you identity safe when a disaster strikes.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

The coronavirus is making a lasting impact on the United States in many different ways. More than 175,000 people have died from the coronavirus, and 57+ million Americans have filed for unemployment. Another noticeable impact is the dramatic increase in scams and identity theft. There have been more than 92,000 COVID-19 fraud reports and $118+ million lost from fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. A story published by the Washington Post reports that no event over the last decade has spawned as many schemes or lasted this long.

Since COVID-19 began seriously affecting the U.S. in March, fraudsters and scammers have been trying to take advantage of the situation to steal or misuse people’s personally identifiable information (PII) in any way possible to commit identity theft. Recently, scammers have been taking advantage of the medical space to commit financial identity theft from COVID-19, using many different methods.

Medicare and Medicaid Scams

There is some good news when it comes to COVID-19 scams. COVID-related phishing scams appear to be on the decline. According to CheckPoint, July saw a 50 percent decrease in COVID-19 scams compared to June. However, CheckPoint reported that COVID-19 medical and vaccine-related scams are still in high demand as the race is on to find a vaccine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) echoes a similar message. The HHS-OIG says scammers are offering tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for PII, like Medicare and Medicaid information to commit financial identity theft.

The AMAC Foundation is so concerned about the current issue that they and Medicare.gov are sending a notice warning recipients of the scams. The HHS-OIG believes fraudsters are targeting recipients with telemarketing calls, text messages, social media messages and door-to-door visits in their effort to steal PII. PII can be used to bill Federal health care and commit financial identity theft fraudulently.

Insurance Scams

Insurance scams are another financial identity theft concern from COVID-19 with telemedicine being so widely available, as mentioned by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. The Coalition warns that costly insurance scams can exploit the burgeoning arms-length telemedicine. Tele-schemes can steal patients’ identities and defraud their insurance policies.

Medical Identity Theft Threat

While fraudsters are using the medical space to commit financial identity theft from COVID-19, there is also a risk of medical identity theft. According to a story published by CBS Dallas, hackers know more people are using the healthcare system, and they know they can take advantage of the situation.

If hackers get their hands on medical records, it could leave a lasting impact. The Senior Director of Threat Hunting and Intelligence at Binary Defense says someone who steals a victim’s identity can go as far as getting an expensive medical procedure done and charge it to the victim’s insurance account. The story suggests consumers give out the bare minimum amount of PII at medical appointments, ensure the provider’s online portals are secure, and ask providers to delete all of their medical records from the database once they are no longer a patient to help reduce their risk of falling victim to identity theft.

What You Can Do

Scammers are using Medicare and Medicaid scams, insurance scams, and a rise in people using the healthcare system to commit identity theft – particularly financial identity theft from COVID-19. However, there are still actions you can take to reduce your risk of falling victim to a COVID-19 scam or financial identity theft.

  • Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries should be cautious of any unsolicited requests for Medicare or Medicaid numbers
  • Keep an eye out for unexpected calls or messages that ask for PII. If someone receives a message with a link or an attachment, do not click or open anything. (NOTE: A physician or trusted health care provider will approve any COVID-19 tests or treatments.)
  • Anyone suspicious of COVID-19 healthcare fraud should report it online to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General or call 800.HHS.TIPS

If you are the victim of financial identity theft from COVID-19, or a COVID-19 scam, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat on our website to speak with an expert advisor.


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Social engineering tactics continue to evolve as a go-to tool in a fraudster’s toolbox. Recent social engineering attacks include a Twitter hack and a bitcoin scam, attacks resulting from dating app data breaches and fraudsters manipulating users from gaming data breaches. Social engineering tactics can be extremely harmful because of the amount of personal information people unwittingly divulge.

What Is It?

Social engineering is when a fraudster manipulates an individual into giving them information. The information could be personally identifiable information (PII) like Social Security numbers, account log-in information, financial details, or professional information like log-in credentials, corporate financial information, etc. Social engineering tactics are aimed at taking advantage of and manipulating someone through an emotional reaction. Terranova Security says some of the emotions used to manipulate people include fear, greed, curiosity, helpfulness and urgency. CSO Online defines social engineering as the art of exploiting human psychology rather than technical hacking techniques to gain access to buildings, systems or data.

How Does It Happen?

Social engineering can happen several different ways, ranging from phishing emails and email hacking to baiting and vishing (the voice version of phishing.) Some

Social engineers could pose as a trusted company, vendor, a boss or coworker, friend or someone else the victim knows to convince the victim to turn over personal information. They could also pose as someone from a government agency – such as local law enforcement, the IRS or Social Security administration – to try and scare a victim into giving out information. Once the personal data is in the hands of a hacker, they can begin to exploit as much as possible with the given information.

How Could It Affect You?

Fraudsters who use social engineering techniques will use emails to directly collect data – that could have malicious links and attachments, or send the reader to their own website that looks legitimate, and even social media messages to steal personal information to commit identity theft. Depending on what information the hacker can collect, they could file for lines of credit in a victim’s name, file taxes or apply for other public benefits in the victim’s name, to name a few.

Steps to Take

  • Be security aware. It is one of the best ways to avoid social engineering. Consumers need to be mindful that social engineering exists and understand the tactics that are used.
  • Install antivirus software. Having the most updated versions of software applications will help minimize issues with viruses or malware that a fraudster may try to employ.
  • Consider the source and trust your instincts. If someone receives a message that seems strange, don’t respond. Instead, reach out directly to the person or company from whom the message claimed to be to verify its validity.
  • Businesses should train their employees about social engineering tactics. This can include training staff regarding the current techniques being used and regularly reviewing procedures to identify and report scams and malicious communication (along with adding new ones).

Social engineering will continue to grow and change as consumers become more aware of the various exploits. As the tactics evolve, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) will do its part to make sure businesses and consumers are educated about best practices to minimize the impacts. Anyone who has more questions regarding social engineering, or believes they have fallen victim to a social engineering scam, can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. They can also live-chat with an advisor on the ITRC’s website.


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Each year, about half of U.S. taxpayers rely on a tax preparer and a tax preparation service to help them file their required tax returns. These professionals offer a wide array of options, from a very simple franchise that plugs in the numbers on the consumer’s behalf to certified public accountants that know the ins and outs of the entire U.S. tax code. From accounting firms to walk-in services like H&R Block, TurboTax/Intuit, Credit Karma or Jackson Hewitt, these tax preparation services often have one major similarity: they are a hot target for hackers and identity thieves.

Trusting an outsider with highly-sensitive personal data is not something that people should take lightly. Having a professional take responsibility for the paperwork, helping to navigate the annual changes to tax laws and even assisting in the event of an IRS audit are all reason enough to pay someone to take care of the filing. However, the sheer volume of personally identifiable information (PII) that a tax preparer must collect and store means there are literal treasure troves of identities waiting to be compromised by a malicious actor.

There are plenty of ways that stolen PII from a tax preparation service can benefit a hacker. First, accessing a stolen return not only means the hacker can file the return for themselves and steal any refunds the consumer was expecting, it also means having the ability to file a fraudulent return every year. Hackers can cause even more harm with information gleaned from a tax preparer’s computer; credential stuffing is another major concern, as the complete information they might steal can be used to access the victim’s other accounts.

There are some important steps that consumers can take to protect themselves when using a tax preparation service. First, people should only choose a professional tax preparer who has a valid IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), but also understand that there are many different services, ability-levels and offerings that a professional can provide. It is also important for a consumer to find out what the preparer’s credentials are—such as having an accounting degree or being a member of a professional organization—before signing on to work with them. Consumers should not hesitate to ask what information the preparer will be able to access, how that information will be stored and for how long, who will be able to access that information and other related questions. There have been many situations where tax preparation services and professionals have been the target of malicious actors and understanding how they are going to safeguard information is just as important as their capabilities.

More guidelines from the IRS are available, but consumers are also cautioned to begin using a nine to ten character passphrase in place of the traditional eight-character password. A passphrase is longer and easier to remember, which makes it both harder for fraudsters to guess and more likely that consumers will deploy a different passphrase for each account.

If someone falls victim to identity theft from a data breach, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor through the organization’s website, as well as call toll-free at 888.400.5530 for an action plan that is customized to their needs. The free ID Theft Help App for iOS and Android also provides a number of resources for consumers to use in the event of a data breach or suspected identity theft.


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Free credit reports are now available to access every week to help minimize the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19. The continuing crisis surrounding the virus has affected people’s lives in many ways. However, fear of the economic impact is also at the top of many people’s minds. Across the U.S., more than 40 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since the first wave of the coronavirus closures and many business owners have had to shut their doors. Some employees wonder if their jobs will be waiting for them and business owners question whether they will be able to reopen once it is safe to do so.

Fortunately, there is some good news for consumers who are concerned about their financial security. The three major credit reporting agencies are offering free credit reports every week through April 2021.

While the economic impacts can be far-reaching, there are other harmful effects as well. Data breaches continue to happen. At least six states who have established public-facing websites for filing unemployment claims have exposed tens of thousands of users’ identity credentials online. There have already been reports of scammers targeting those seeking assistance with phishing attempts.

Consumers have been entitled to a free copy of their credit reports, up to one copy per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Those reports are readily available from AnnualCreditReport.com and are easy to download. However, requesting further reports after the initial free request (in a twelve-month period) could incur a fee. Now, consumers will be able to access each of their free credit reports every week through next spring with no additional cost.

For consumers, checking and understanding their credit report is vital in order to maintain some control over their financial health. It gives them a clearer picture of their current debt and spending potential, as well as help uncover whether or not malicious actors have been using their identities. Any fraudulent charges, purchases and lines of credit would appear on the credit report, making it helpful for monitoring one’s identity. To request a free credit report, users need to visit AnnualCreditReport.com and enter their information. The report will be available for download almost immediately. For more information on how to request a report and why it is a useful tool, click here. If there are any signs of suspicious activity on the report—such as purchases, new credit cards or too many inquiries from lenders—consumers can contact the Identity Theft Resource Center via live-chat or toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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Some consumers have yet to receive their stimulus check, leaving many wondering why. The Identity Theft Resource Center has seen a sharp increase in “stolen stimulus check” cases. However, not everyone who believes they had their stimulus check stolen finds that to be the case. In fact, there are a handful of reasons why people could still be waiting. With that said, some are legitimately stolen.

The FTC reports that some stolen stimulus checks appear to be from nursing home residents. Nursing homes in several states have made residents sign over their stimulus checks. Other cases involve people committing physical mail theft, like this New York man who stole over $12,000 worth of stimulus checks. Some thieves are going as far as stealing stimulus checks from postal trucks. The Chicago metro saw multiple postal trucks get broken into in April.

No matter how stimulus checks are being stolen, it can be a headache for consumers and something law enforcement is working to stop. If someone believes they are the victim of a stolen stimulus check, they should report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the IRS.

  • Victims of a stolen stimulus check can go to IDTheft.gov and click “Get Started”
  • On the next page, which is titled “Which statement best describes our situation,” victims should click the line that says “Someone filed a Federal tax return – or claimed an economic stimulus payment – using my information.”
  • After the victim answers the questions provided, the page will complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit for the victim to submit electronically to the IRS, which can also be downloaded for file keeping
  • The website will provide the victim with a recovery plan to follow that includes steps to prevent identity theft
  • The IRS and their “Get My Payment” tool is a way for consumers to learn the status of their payment, including where it was sent. For more information, consumers can visit the IRS’s Economic Impact Payment Information Center and Get My Payment Frequently Asked Questions pages for detailed, and frequently-updated, answers to questions. They also can find information here about payments that the IRS may have deposited to an account that is not recognized.

It is important for consumers to remember that the IRS will never call, email, text or reach out via social media to anyone about a stolen stimulus check or to receive a stimulus check. If someone does, it is probably a phishing scam looking to steal personal information and should be reported to the proper agency.

If someone had their stimulus check stolen, or had another form of government identity theft,  they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530. ITRC advisors will walk victims through the process and tell them where they need to go, who they need to talk to, what they need to say and what they need to do.


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The IRS has started distributing stimulus check payments to the nearly 140 million Americans that are eligible. While many have received their stimulus payment through direct deposit, according to CNN, 60 million Americans are still waiting for their money.

The IRS created a portal in hopes that people would be able to check the status of their stimulus check payment. However, due to overload and glitches being worked out, the website has not worked for everyone.

One reason why people might not have received their stimulus check payment is because they are victims of tax identity theft. However, there are many other reasons why people might not have received their payment that they should explore first:

1. People who are not normally required to file a tax return. Individuals who make less than $12,200 a year (or less than $24,400 for married couples) are generally not required to file a tax return. For the process of receiving a stimulus check payment, these people have to enter their information into a new IRS portal to get their money.

2. Someone’s refund went to a temporary account that was set up by a tax preparer. According to a report by WALA-TV, when people use tax preparation services, sometimes a temporary account is set up to handle the transactions, which could lead to a longer wait for a stimulus check payment.

3. Not everyone got a federal tax refund in 2018 or 2019. Some consumers did not get a refund after their last two tax filings. In fact, if someone owed taxes the last two years, they could still qualify for the stimulus. Only consumers who received a refund from the IRS to a direct deposit account will be processed for stimulus direct payment.

4. Some people’s refunds might have gone to an old bank account. This could happen if someone filed their 2018 tax return with bank account formation that is no longer valid and has yet to file a 2019 tax return. For people who have not filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS is using information from their 2018 tax refunds.

5. Some people might have filed a paper return in 2019. People who filed their taxes with paper returns will mostly receive their stimulus check by mail because the IRS has stopped processing paper returns until they can reopen their centers.

6. It has been seized by a private debt collector. If someone owes money for private student loans, credit cards or medical bills, their stimulus check could be at risk. The CARES Act does not restrict private debt collectors from taking the check to pay off debt.

7. If there is anyone who does not fall under any of the categories listed above, they could be a victim of tax identity theft. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is receiving calls and live chats from victims claiming their stimulus checks were intercepted. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the agency has already begun to see scammers pose as the IRS to get personal information from payment receipts they can use to steal money. While the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit is doing what they can to combat the problem, they have seen scams that are preying on vulnerable individuals who are not sure how they will get their stimulus check payment.

To avoid falling victim to tax identity theft due to the stimulus check, consumers are urged to not respond to any messages they receive that they are not expecting. Instead, they should contact the company, organization, or entity directly to verify the validity of the message. Also, it is important for people to stay informed about what is happening. The IRS will not contact anyone asking for personal information. If someone receives a phone call, email or text message claiming to be the IRS, it is probably a scam.

If anyone thinks their stimulus check landed in the hands of a thief, they can visit IdentityTheft.gov to get started on a personal recovery plan.

If someone believes they are a victim of tax identity theft, they can live chat with an ITRC expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530. Callers are encouraged to leave a message due to advisors working remotely. However, they will return calls as quickly as they can.


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The Treasury Department and the IRS continue towards getting consumers their stimulus checks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the distribution of stimulus checks underway, non-filers are now able to get their stimulus payments sooner thanks in part to an online tool that was created to help consumers that aren’t required to file tax returns. However, it is important non-filers know the proper steps to take to protect their personal data and information so they don’t fall for a stimulus check scam.

First, non-filers should go directly to the IRS website, IRS.gov. Always start at the most trusted source.

Second, non-filers should click the tab that says “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.” If consumers do not see this tab on the front page, they are not on the right page.

Image of irs.gov

Consumers should proceed to click on the “Non-Filers” tab. Once they click on the tab, it should take them to a page that has information on the “Economic Impact Payment” and additional information on what consumers need to provide and what they should expect. The next step is to, once again, click on the tab titled “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” that can be found in the middle of the page.

Image of irs.gov

Once the tab is clicked on, visitors will be redirected to freefilefillableforms.com. The redirect could feel like a scam. However, if the homepage looks like the one below, consumers are at the right place. (The ITRC has verified that this is a valid redirect)

Image of freefilefillableforms.com

From there all people have to do is hit “Get Started” to begin. Once a profile is created, non-filers will be asked for personal information like their Social Security number, address, dependents and direct deposit information. In this case, it is okay for consumers to provide sensitive information.

However, if anyone receives emails, text messages or phone calls about non-filers filing for a stimulus check, they should ignore it because it is probably a stimulus check scam. People should be going directly to the source, in this case, the IRS, to complete the process.

Since the stimulus package was merely a thought, scammers have increased their efforts around stimulus check scams. It is important for people to never give out personal information over the phone or to anyone they do not know personally. Also, it is important to know the facts. The IRS will not call anyone.

If people have questions regarding non-filers or stimulus check scams, they can live chat with an expert ITRC advisor. For those that cannot access the website, they can call the toll-free hotline (888.400.5530) and leave a message for an advisor. While the advisors are working remotely, there may be a delay in responding but someone will assist you as quickly as possible.


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