• One of the first changes in 2020 due to COVID-19 was the delay in the regular income tax filing date. Soon after that, millions of out-of-work Americans began to receive enhanced unemployment benefits and special small business loans.
  • Soon after that, cybercriminals began to steal those benefits. The Department of Labor estimates that unemployment fraud could total as much as $26 billion. California alone has seen nearly $2 billion in unemployment benefits fraud.
  • With the 2021 tax filing season quickly approaching, many people will receive a 1099 form alerting them that they must claim income they never received from the benefits they never sought.
  • To learn more, listen to this week’s episode of the Fraudian Slip.
  • People can learn about taking advantage of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identity protection programs or reporting identity-related issues to the IRS at IRS.gov and clicking on the Identity Theft Protection link at the bottom of the home page.
  • If anyone believes they are a victim of tax identity theft or unemployment benefits fraud, they should contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website idtheftcenter.org.

The below is a transcript of our podcast episode with special guest, IRS

Welcome to the Fraudian Slip, the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) podcast, where we talk about all-things identity compromise, crime and fraud, including the impact identity issues have on people and businesses.

In a typical episode, we would focus on something that has happened or is happening that impacts consumers and businesses. Not today. We are going to talk about what’s about to happen, specifically the 2021 tax filing season.

It’s been nearly a year since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted virtually every aspect of everyday life. One of the first changes in 2020 was the delay in the traditional income tax filing date. Soon thereafter, millions of out-of-work Americans began to receive enhanced unemployment benefits and special small business loans. Shortly after that, cybercriminals began to steal those benefits. The Department of Labor estimates that unemployment fraud could total as much as $26 billion. California alone has seen nearly $2 billion in unemployment fraud.

Fast forward to today, and the spike in benefits fraud is subsiding. However, a second round of victims may soon emerge. Benefits like unemployment payments are considered income and are taxable. Thousands of the unemployment payments made in 2020 were made in the names of people whose identities were misused – and they didn’t know it. With the 2021 tax filing season quickly approaching, many people will receive a 1099 form alerting them that they must claim income they never received from the benefits they never sought. That is on top of the usual identity-related income tax fraud the IRS sees each year.

We talked with Jim Robnett, the Deputy Chief of the IRS – Criminal Investigation Division, about the following:

Overview

  • Before 2020, the number of false income tax returns linked to identity compromises was already falling. What had the IRS done that was working so well to reduce tax-related identity theft?

Pandemic-Related Tax Issues

  • The most obvious change in terms of taxes in 2020 was moving the filing date. From the IRS perspective, what was 2020 like for you?
  • Anytime there is a mass injection of money into the economy, there is fraud. The IRS played a crucial role in delivering the stimulus checks approved by Congress. What kind of response did you expect from criminals, and what did you see? 
  • We know there has been a massive amount of unemployment fraud, and that has had tax implications for victims. Explain why that is and what taxpayers should do if they suspect or know they are the victim of benefit fraud?
  • What should taxpayers do who get a 1099 form they were not expecting?
  • What about small businesses or entrepreneurs who may discover someone took out an SBA loan or other pandemic benefit in their name?

2021 Tax Issues

  • What should taxpayers do to prepare for 2021?
  • The IRS recently announced the expansion of Identity Protection PINs. That’s going to be a great tool for preventing fraud. Explain how that works and what taxpayers need to do to take advantage of the IP PIN program?

For answers to all of these questions, listen to this week’s episode of The Fraudian Slip Podcast.

Learn More From the IRS

You can learn more about taking advantage of the IRS identity protection programs or reporting identity-related issues to the IRS at IRS.gov and clicking on the Identity Theft Protection link at the bottom of the home page.

Contact the ITRC

You can learn how to protect yourself from identity fraud, crimes and compromises – including the tax-related issues we discussed today, by visiting idtheftcenter.org, where you can also read more about the latest data breach trends.

If you think you are the victim of an identity crime or your identity has been compromised, you can call us, chat live online, send an email or leave a voice mail for an expert advisor to get advice on how to respond. Just visit the website to get started.

  • The IRS and Treasury Department began distributing stimulus payments the last week of 2020. Direct Deposits, paper checks and debit cards will be sent out to some Americans throughout January. No action is required by anyone to receive their stimulus payment.  
  • Some Americans say they are missing their stimulus payment, while others claim their money was deposited into the wrong bank account. 
  • According to a notice shared with the Identity Theft Resource Center, Turbo Tax recently pointed to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) error that led to millions of stimulus payments sent to the wrong bank accounts. Turbo Tax expects the issue to be resolved within days.  
  • The IRS says people should visit IRS.gov for the most current information on the second round of Economic Impact Payments rather than calling the agency or their financial institutions or tax software providers. 

Many Americans continue to wait for their stimulus payment, approved as part of the second stimulus package passed by Congress in December 2020. Others claim they are missing their stimulus payment because it was deposited into the wrong bank account. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) continues to receive calls and live-chats regarding missing stimulus payments. One person reported to the ITRC that they received a message from Turbo Tax claiming millions of stimulus payments were sent to the wrong bank accounts. 

Image provided to ITRC

The message goes on to say the IRS expects the issue will be resolved soon, and stimulus payments will be deposited into the correct bank accounts within days. The Detroit Free Press also reports some taxpayers believe their money is going into the wrong bank accounts. Others say checks are being mailed to them when they received a direct deposit during the first round of payments in April 2020.  

On January 4, the IRS issued a news release urging people to visit IRS.gov for the most current information on the second round of Economic Impact Payments rather than calling the agency or their financial institutions or tax software providers. The release says the IRS phone advisors do not have additional information beyond what’s available on IRS.gov

On January 5, the IRS issued a second news release saying they updated the “Get My Payment” tool with information around the second round of stimulus payments. The Service acknowledged issues and errors with the “Get My Payment” tool, and they encouraged people to check back later. 

On January 8, the IRS acknowledged some payments may have gone into a temporary bank account established when people’s 2019 tax return were filed, and they are taking immediate steps to redirect stimulus payments to the correct account for those affected.  

The ITRC asks consumers to visit IRS.gov and to be patient throughout the process. We will update consumers if new information arises. Anyone concerned about a missing stimulus payment can also contact the ITRC toll-free either by phone (888.400.5530) or via live-chat. All people have to do is go to idtheftcenter.org to get started.  


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*Updated as of 3/10/2021

  • The third round of stimulus payments is on the way. Scammers are aware, too, which means another round of scams as well.
  • Remember, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not text, email or call anyone about a stimulus payment. If someone receives an unsolicited message from someone claiming to be with the IRS, it is probably a scam. Consumers should contact the IRS directly to verify before they respond. 
  • Offers that require people to pay to receive a stimulus benefit or to use a service to get a payment faster are also signs of a stimulus payment scam. 
  • Consumers can track their new stimulus checks once they are sent. Then can visit the IRS “Get My Payment” page to follow their payments.  
  •  To learn more about stimulus payment scams, the new stimulus payment or if someone suspects they are the victim of a stimulus scam, they can contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website.  

New Stimulus Payments Approved by Lawmakers 

Lawmakers voted to approve the third stimulus package since the coronavirus pandemic. The package includes a $1,400 stimulus payment for anyone who earns $75,000 or less (the payments start to phase out at $75,000), extends jobless aid supplement and programs making more people eligible for unemployment insurance, and much more.

Late in 2020, lawmakers agreed on a new stimulus package, which included a $600 stimulus payment for anyone who earned $75,000 or less. There was also a reduced payment for anyone who made $75,000-$99,000.

In the spring of 2020, the first batch of stimulus payments assisted Americans in need of financial relief due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Criminals took advantage of the situation by offering to help benefit recipients speed access to their stimulus funds. Criminals stole checks from nursing home residents, out of people’s mailboxes, and even from postal trucks. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) saw some of those methods used to steal identity information and stimulus payments the second time around, and expect to see it again. The ITRC has also had a sharp rise in reported stolen stimulus payments and stimulus payment scams cases.

As of March 10, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged more than 382,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments totaling more than $366 million in losses. Two-thirds of the complaints involved fraud or identity theft. The median fraud loss per person is $325.

New stimulus checks mean more scams are on the way. With more stimulus payment fraud expected, consumers should know how to spot a scam and what to do if an identity criminal contacts them.

Possible Stimulus Payment Scams 

According to the Washington Post, researchers recently discovered a campaign of thousands of emails that sought to trick Americans into filling out a phony form to “apply” for American Rescue Plan checks from the IRS before the third stimulus package was even passed by congress. The emails encouraged recipients to download an Excel sheet that launched malicious software that steals personal banking information and other login credentials once downloaded.

Criminals use different schemes to trick people, and they can be expected to do the same this time, as seen above. Here are a few things for people to watch for that indicate that someone might be the target of a stimulus payment scam:

  • Text messages and emails about stimulus payments – Criminals use text messages and emails to send malicious links in hopes that people will click on them to divulge personal information or insert malware onto someone’s device. If anyone receives a text message or email about a stimulus check or direct deposit with a link to click or a file to open, they should ignore it. It’s a scam because the IRS will not contact anyone unsolicited by text, email or phone to discuss a stimulus payment. 
  • Asked to verify financial information – The IRS will not call, text or email anyone to verify their information. If information needs to be confirmed, people will be directed to an IRS web page. This includes retirees who might not typically file a tax return.  
  • A fake check in the mail – Anyone who earns $75,000 or less will get $1,400. People who make between $75,000-$80,000 will receive a reduced amount. Anyone who gets a check and has questions about the amount, or thinks the check seems suspicious, should contact the IRS.
  • Offers for faster payments – Any claim offering payment faster through a third-party is a scam. All new stimulus checks will come from the IRS, and the IRS says there is no way to expedite a payment.  
  • Pay to get a check – No one has to pay to receive a stimulus check. New stimulus checks will be deposited directly into the same banking account used for previous stimulus payments or the most recent tax refund. If the IRS does not have someone’s direct deposit information, a check or prepaid card will be mailed to the last known address on file at the IRS.
  • Stolen checks – The ITRC has received numerous complaints from consumers about their stimulus checks being stolen. If anyone believes their payment is stolen, they should visit IDTheft.gov, where they can report, “Someone filed a Federal tax return – or claimed an economic stimulus payment – using my information.”

What to Do If You’re a Victim of Stimulus Payment Scams 

 If anyone believes their information may have been compromised or their stimulus payment was stolen, the IRS suggests people report it to the IRS and FTC simultaneously through IdentityTheft.gov. If anyone wants to learn more about stimulus payment scams or if someone believes they are the victim of a stimulus payment scam, they may also contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free. Consumers can call (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the website. People can go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

By Identity Theft Resource Center CEO, Eva Velasquez & Synchrony CISO, Gleb Reznik

The 2020 holiday season will certainly be one of the most unusual ones we have seen, thanks to the biggest holiday shopping trend – a dramatic shift in online transactions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Online shopping involves non-cash transactions using digital payment methods. While the most obvious are debit and credit cards, there are also peer-to-peer payment apps, digital wallets and online versions of contactless payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

There is a truism in cybercrime as there is in bank robbery: thieves go where the money is. There are many opportunities for bad actors to take advantage of consumers and businesses during the shopping season. We expect the identity thieves will look to take advantage of the rise in online shopping.

Tune in to our latest podcast

Historic and Current Holiday Shopping Trends

Holiday shopping has always been a busy time for consumers. Last year, there was an estimated $1.1 trillion spent on the shopping frenzy.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), approximately 65 percent of consumers shopped online during the holidays in 2019.

Online retailers have seen sales grow steadily over the years. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, sales have risen between one to two percent each year.

Online Holiday Shopping Trends So Far in the 2020 Holiday Season

With all of that said, 2020 looks to be a watershed year. In just the first ten days of the holiday shopping season, U.S. consumers spent $21.7 billion online, a 21 percent year-over-year increase, according to Adobe Analytics.

There is no surprise in this online holiday shopping trend. The same Adobe Analytics report shows 63 percent of consumers are avoiding stores and buying more online, with health concerns due to the pandemic driving the decision for 81 percent of shoppers.

Advice for Consumers

  • Have strong password management – If someone has strong password management, an identity thief will not be able to access multiple accounts if they gain access to one account with stolen credentials from a scam or shoulder surfing. It is especially important to ignore “customer service representatives” who call about online orders or accounts. At the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), we recommend using at least a twelve-digit passphrase because they are easier to remember and harder for an identity thief to crack.
  • Beware of phishing emails with emotional triggers – People should keep an eye out for shopping discounts sent to their phones claiming huge store discounts if they download an app and enter their credit card information. Another popular phishing email is package tracking scams that offer to track someone’s packages after making their purchase with a link to open or download. No one should ever click on a link, attachment or file from an unknown email because that is how scammers strike with malware, ransomware and steal people’s personal information.
  • Use credit cards and not debit cards – Credit cards provide more protection than debit cards. One of the biggest reasons is because debit cards are linked with bank accounts. If an identity thief compromises a debit card, the victim’s bank account can be immediately drained of all available funds. It may take time to restore the stolen funds, leaving the cardholder without access to the money.
  • Shop on secure websites – People need to do their homework before providing any of their payment information or other data. Consumers can check a business’s reputation at third party review organizations like the BBB and Yelp. Using search terms like “Scam” or “Complaints” along with the website or company name can give someone insight into the experience of other customers. 
  • Do not use public Wi-Fi – No one should ever use public Wi-Fi to check their bank account information or to make purchases. Some public Wi-Fi connections are not secure, and a hacker could have the ability to position themselves between the user and the connection point to steal their data. If someone wants to use public Wi-Fi to kill time while in the store or to check on products they want to buy, they need to avoid entering any personal information.

Advice for Businesses

  • Secure your information – Businesses need to take all of the necessary steps to ensure customers’ personal information is secure. It starts by making sure all systems are protected with properly configured cybersecurity tools. Time and time again, we see businesses and technology providers fail to configure passwords, resulting in exposed sensitive data for anyone to see online.
  • Have security software – Businesses need to protect their networks from cyberattacks. If a system does not have appropriate security software like network and application firewalls, malware protection and a program to patch known security flaws, identity thieves will steal whatever customer and company information they want.
  • Talk to the employees about online security – A business can have all the security measures in place, but it does not matter if employees click on links in phishing schemes. Company executives and cybersecurity teams should talk to employees about security, so they do not end up being their weakest link.

What the Post-Pandemic Marketplace Will Look Like

While many things are uncertain about our post-pandemic world, one safe bet is that online holiday shopping will continue to rise. Statistics show online shopping was already on the rise before COVID-19. With the even bigger surge during the pandemic, it will force businesses to get serious, if they are not already, about e-commerce and a digital-first model. In a sense, every day could be Black Friday!

For more information on online shopping during the holiday season or online holiday shopping trends, contact the ITRC at no-cost by calling 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website.

Also, download the free ID Theft Help app, which has access to resources, a case log for an identity theft resolution process and much more.

Synchrony is a proud financial sponsor of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

  • The 2020 COVID-19 holiday season is upon us. This year, consumers should be on the lookout for job scamsgiving scamsgrandparent scams and online shopping scams, to name a few.  
  • If anyone comes across an unknown message regarding the COVID-19 holiday season, they should ignore it and go directly back to the source to confirm the message’s legitimacy. 
  • People should take steps to protect their personal information when shopping online, taking part in holiday gatherings (both in person or via a video platform), at the gas pump, and when receiving electronic gifts. 
  • To learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website.  

COVID-19 has changed the way people live. Many people are working from home, there are restrictions on what people can do in public, and many businesses remain shut down or open at a limited capacity. It has also changed the way scammers attack consumers. 

The 2020 holiday season will also be much different than year’s past. According to IBM’s latest U.S. Retail Index Report, COVID-19 has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years. 

Criminals may adopt new tactics to take advantage of the pandemic, but what will not be different is scammers’ and identity thieves’ ability to find ways to strike.  

Watch for COVID-19 Holiday Scams   

Here are some scams to watch for this COVID-19 holiday season. 

1. Job Scams – Much of the economy remains shut down or open in a limited capacity. Millions of people are looking to gig economy jobs like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to get by. People could rely on gig economy jobs even more during the holidays to make extra cash. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported losses of $134 million in 2019 to social media scams.

In the first half of 2020, the FTC already reported $117 million, with most scams coming from viewing an ad. Scammers may claim in advertisements that they can get shoppers access to premium jobs for the holidays with big tips in exchange for an upfront fee. Gig economy scams can also lead consumers to phishing websites that steal login credentials. 

2. Giving Scams – People typically give more to charities around the holiday season. However, with more families in need of help in 2020, we may see an even bigger increase in people making donations. Expect criminals to attack with giving scams, looking to steal people’s money and personal information. In fact, scammers have used giving scams to take advantage of people since the beginning of the pandemic.  

3. Grandparent Scams – Another popular holiday scam is the grandparent scam. A grandparent scam is where scammers claim a family member is in trouble and needs help. With the holidays here, scammers could pose as sick family members. 

4. Online Shopping Scams – Many more people will be shopping online this holiday season. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), 65 percent of people shopped online last year. This year, online shopping is expected to increase by 10 percent to 75 percent. With the increase in web traffic, consumers should be wary of messages claiming they have been locked out of their accounts. Scammers may send phishing emails making such claims while looking to steal usernames, passwords and account information.  

How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Holiday Scams 

While scammers will try to trick consumers, there are things people can do to protect themselves from a COVID-19 holiday scam. 

  • If someone comes across an ad for a job or a deal online that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Consumers should go back to the source directly by contacting the company to confirm the message’s validity. 
  • If someone receives an email, text message or phone call they are not expecting, ignore it. If any of the messages contain links, attachments or files, do not click or download them because they could have malware designed to steal people’s personal information or lead to a phishing attack. Again, consumers should reach out directly to who the caller, email sender or text message sender claimed to be or the company they claimed to be with.  
  • People should only donate to legitimate charities and organizations registered with their state.   Consumers can determine if a charity, non-profit or company is legitimate by searching for the charity’s charitable registration information on the Secretary of State’s website, looking for online reviews and Googling the entity with the word “scam” after it. 
  • No one should ever make a payment over the phone to someone they do not know or were not expecting to hear from. Scammers will try to trick people with robocalls to steal their sensitive information and commit identity theft. 

How to Protect Your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) This Holiday Season 

Identity Thieves will try different ways to steal people’s PII. It is crucial consumers can protect their PII during the holidays, and year-round, to make sure it does not end up in the hands of a criminal.  

1. At the Pump – More people will travel by car this year than usual. Travelers on the road should keep an eye out for gas station skimmers. Skimmers insert a thin film into the card reader or use a Bluetooth device at a gas pump to steals the card’s information that allows the thief to misuse the payment card account. If the pump looks tampered with, pay inside. Newer gas pumps use contactless technology and chipped payment cards that are very secure. Use those pumps if possible.  

2. Holiday Gatherings – It is always important to protect all personal information at holiday gatherings. While no one ever imagines a trusted friend or family member will go through their stuff, people fall victim every year. Keep wallets or purses with financial cards or I.D. cards within reach.  

3. Zoom and Other Online Video Platforms – Not all family gatherings will be in person in 2020 due to COVID-19. Some families will meet virtually via a video platform. When people use a video platform, it’s important they remember to secure the call by using strict privacy settings and not sharing any personal information with someone they don’t know.  

4. Shopping Online – With more people shopping online for the 2020 holiday season, people need to practice good cyber hygiene. Make sure to navigate directly to a retailer’s website rather than click on a link in an ad, email, text or social media post. Phishing schemes are very sophisticated these days and spotting a spoofed website of well-known and local brands can be difficult even for trained cybersecurity professionals. 

Consumers will still need to do their due diligence to ensure a business website is legitimate. There is inherently less risk of falling for a scam website by shopping at well-known retailers. It only takes a bit of homework to separate the scams from legitimate small online businesses. Using search terms like “Scam” or “Complaints” along with the website or company name can give people insight into the experience of other customers. 

When setting up a new online account, be sure to use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication creates a second layer of security to reduce the risk of a criminal taking over someone’s account. 

5. Electronic Gifts – With the advent of smart home devices, many gifts connect to the internet, presenting security risks. It is important consumers update the software on the device. It is also a good idea to have antivirus software installed on any computer, tablet or internet device if possible, along with a secure password on the home network router.  

For more information on how to stay safe during the COVID-19 holiday season contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat with an identity theft advisor at no-cost.

For access to more resources, download the ITRC’s free ID Theft Help app.  


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This article has been updated as of November 2, 2020

Update 11/2/20 – According to the IRS, anyone who does not usually file a tax return, or did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019, might not know if they qualify for an economic impact payment. Nearly nine million people that fall into this category will receive a letter from the IRS with information on how to register on their website to claim their payment, which has a deadline of November 21, 2020. The letter is legitimate. Anyone who receives one should either call the IRS directly at 800.919.9835 to register, or visit IRS.gov/EIP.  

However, if anyone receives a phone call, text message or email from someone claiming to be the IRS and wants to help you receive your stimulus payment, hang up, do not respond, and do not click on any links or attachments. The IRS will not text, email or call about an economic impact payment. They will also never ask anyone to pay a fee to get their money.  

The IRS and it’s partners will do a final push on November 10, National EIP Registration Day, to reach out to people who do not normally file their taxes. To learn more about stimulus payments, visit the IRS website.  

This article was originally posted, April 14, 2020

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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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.

Read next: “Vote By Phone” Scam

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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