*Updated as of 1/5/2021

  • More stimulus payments are on the way. Scammers are aware, too, which means another round of stimulus payment-related scams.  
  • 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 have agreed on a new stimulus package, which includes a $600 stimulus payment for anyone who earns $75,000 or less. There is also a reduced payment for anyone who makes $75,000-$99,000. 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.  

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) has already seen some of those methods used to steal identity information and stimulus payments the second time around. The ITRC has also had a sharp rise in reported stolen stimulus payments and stimulus payment scams cases.

As of January 3, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged more than 298,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments totaling more than $253 million in losses. Two-thirds of the complaints involved fraud or identity theft. The median fraud loss per person is $324.

Possible Stimulus Payment Scams 

Criminals have used different schemes to trick people, and they can be expected to do the same this time, too. 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 $600 per dependent.  People who make between $75,000-$99,000 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 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.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers that while a vaccine is closer to distribution, so are COVID-19 vaccine scams. 
  • The FDA fears misleading products could cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to life-threatening harm. 
  • There is also a fear that the COVID-19 vaccine scams could lead to many people having their personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI) stolen. 
  • Consumers should only get vaccines from approved medical providers, not respond to any calls that ask for PHI or PII, and not click on any links claiming to sell cures. 
  • For more information, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by live-chat on the company website or by calling 888.400.5530.  

coronavirus vaccine is closer to reality, with companies like Pfizer and Moderna seeking permission to distribute their vaccines to Americans. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and investigators warn that scammers are also waiting, ready to take advantage of those desperate for the vaccine by tricking them with a COVID-19 vaccine scam.  

The FDA fears deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm. There is also a fear that bogus claims about vaccines and treatments could lead to people having their personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI) stolen by cybercriminals.  

Who is the Target 

Vulnerable & high-risk populations; individuals waiting for the vaccine 

What is the Scam 

COVID-19 vaccine scams could come in many different forms. Investigators expect scammers to create fake websites, try to sell fake vaccines and treatments, and try to get people’s PII and PHI along the way. Identity thieves used similar tactics while trying to take advantage of a shortage of COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and gowns near the beginning of the pandemic.

How You Can Avoid Being Scammed 

  • Homeland Security investigators say you should only get vaccinated from an approved medical provider. 
  • Do not respond to any calls about COVID-19 vaccines that ask for your personal information like Social Security Number and “promise to reserve you a vaccine.”
  • Do not click on any posts or ads claiming to sell cures. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Never click on any links, open any attachments, or download any files in an email claiming to offer a COVID-19 vaccine.  

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccine scams, or if you believe you are a victim of a vaccine scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by calling 888.400.5530. You can also visit the company website to live-chat with an expert advisor. Go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

  • Scammers are looking to take advantage of consumers that need money due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with a credit line scam. 
  • The scam tries to trick consumers with fake phone calls that look like they are from legitimate banks offering credit lines with low interest rates. Ultimately, scammers are looking to steal sensitive personal information or financial information.  
  • People should be cautious when taking a call from someone claiming to be with a bank. Consumers are encouraged to call the bank directly if they are interested in a new line of credit. Also, if anyone is struggling to pay off their debts, they should only talk to the holder of the debt.   
  • For more information on credit line scams, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. 

Many people need money due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers are taking advantage by trying to trick consumers with fake phone calls that look like they are from legitimate banks offering lines of credit with a low interest rate. The scam can fool people because the calls can have spoofed phone numbers to make it look like they are coming from a legitimate bank.  

Who ithe Target 

Vulnerable consumers that need money 

What is the Scam 

It is a credit line scam that targets people by phone. The calls begin with a stolen recording from a real bank. Once a “live agent” joins the call, they offer credit lines with low interest rates. However, before the caller gets their new credit line, they have to provide their credit card number and other credit card details. The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Midwest Region Office tells ABC 7 Chicago that they have received thousands of complaints about this particular credit line scam.  

What They Want 

Credit card numbers, expiration dates and the three-digit CVV code on the back of the card; stolen credit card information can lead to different forms of financial identity theft 

How You Can Avoid Being Scammed 

  • If you get a call from someone claiming to be with a bank and offering credit, be cautious and don’t give out sensitive personal information. You can also let the call go to voicemail and call the security department directly through the number on the bank’s website.  
  • If you are interested in a credit line, contact your bank directly. 
  • If you are having trouble paying off any of your debts, only talk to the holder of that debt.  

If you believe you are a victim of a credit line scam or would like to learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also speak with an expert advisor on the company website via the live-chat function. 


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Unsubscribe Email Scam Looks to Trick Consumers

  • Domain name scams are making the rounds in hopes of triggering a response from a company’s employees out of fear. 
  • The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recently received a domain name scam claiming a registrar found the main body of domain names from “RENDE International Ltd.” that were the same as the ITRC’s. 
  • If anyone receives a similar email, ignore it. Never share personal or sensitive information with an unknown company.  
  • For more information, contact the ITRC at no-cost by calling 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. 

Domain name scams are making their way through different companies, including the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). The scam is well-known, but small-to-mid-size businesses (SMBs) can be tricked into responding. While scammers send the email in hopes of triggering a response out of fear, it is important employees at businesses of all sizes be able to spot the domain name scam. 

Here is one of a few of the emails that the ITRC recently received: 

Who It Is Targeting 

SMBs; Email users; Employees of companies with websites 

What It Is 

A CEO domain name scam is an email that appears to be a warning for the website owner regarding possible issues with their brand and domain name.

In the case of the ITRC, the email claims a website registrar found the ITRC’s domain name was also being used by “RENDE International Ltd.” The email asks for a response ASAP to “solve the problem promptly.”  

What They Are After 

Scammers hope that companies fear losing their brand identity or trademark information to a competitor that will purchase new domain names. The “registrars” may also charge higher prices than the standard rates offered by reputable registrars.  

How You Can Avoid It 

  • Do not respond to the email. Only renew a domain name through the company where it was initially purchased.  
  • Use the company email provider’s “spam” feature to report the email as junk. 
  • Never share personal or sensitive information with an unknown company. 
  • Companies should train their employees on how to respond to domain name scams and any  attempted scams that could affect the company. 

For more information on how an SMB, or any other company, can avoid a CEO domain name scam, contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. You can also live-chat through the company website.  

  • The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) discovered multiple social media posts encouraging people to leave their Social Security numbers in the comment section of popular social media sites. It is known as the “Social Security number challenge.” 
  • While many people will not fall for the challenge, it is a reminder that there are fake social media profiles that ask for personal information.  
  • No one should ever give out any personal information publically or to someone they do not know, especially on social media. 
  • For more information, contact the ITRC for no-cost assistance by phone at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat via the company website.  

Have you ever heard of the Social Security number challenge? Someone posts a call to action on social media for people to “drop their Social Security number” in the comments. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recently was notified of the trending Social Security number challenge on Facebook. 

Image from Facebook

While the challenge seems far-fetched, it is a good reminder that there are fake social media profiles that ask for personal information like “your mother’s maiden name” or “the answer to your security question.”  

Who It Is Targeting 

Facebook and social media users 

What It Is 

A social media challenge where someone posts on social media asking others to place their Social Security number in the comments. It is known as the “Social Security number challenge.”  

What They Are After 

In this particular case, people’s Social Security numbers. However, there are fake social media profiles that ask for other personal information like account security answers (your mother’s maiden name or dog’s name) that could lead to lots of damage if used in your password or other.

What You Can Do 

Never give out personal information to anyone you do not know. It’s impossible to know whose hands the information will end up in and what they might do with it. Personal information can be used to commit many different forms of identity theft. 

If you want to learn more about social media safety or have questions about the use of your Social Security number, contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. You can also live-chat with an advisor on the company website.  


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Social Media Scams are on the Rise as More People Use the Platforms to Connect

  • A new unsubscribe email scam tries to scare people into “unsubscribing” from confirmation emails coming from an adult dating list.
  • The unsubscribe button could lead to malware or to a form to steal your personal information.
  • Anyone who receives a suspicious email they are not expecting should ignore it and not click on any links, open any attachments, or download any files. Users can also report the email as spam.
  • For more information, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with an expert advisor on the company website.

Scammers are always looking for new ways to dupe consumers into turning over their personal information or spreading malware to one of their devices. A new unsubscribe email scam reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) tries to trick people into clicking an “unsubscribe button” that could be either a malicious link or a form to steal your personal information.

Who It Is Targeting

Email users

What It Is

A “confirmation” email that claims you received a private message from an adult dating website. The fake email asks the user to confirm by entering their email address and name, and it gives people an option to “unsubscribe” if they would like to stop receiving the adult dating list emails. Scammers use scare tactics such as an email from an adult website in hopes people will click the “unsubscribe” button.

What They Are After

Entering your email address and name into the confirmation email gives cybercriminals the personal information needed to commit identity crimes. Clicking the “unsubscribe” button could lead to malware infecting your device, or to a form that asks for your personal information.

What You Can Do

  • If you receive a suspicious or unexpected message that includes links or asks for your information, ignore it. If it claims to be from a legitimate company, go directly to the source to verify the validity of the message.
  • Do not click on any links, open any attachments, or download any files in an email or text unless you confirm it is legitimate.
  • Use your email provider’s “spam” feature to report the email as junk rather than clicking unsubscribe.

If you believe you have fallen victim to an unsubscribe email scam or have additional questions, call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with an expert advisor on the company website.

  • The Federal Trade Commission reports that people who lost money to scams that started on social media has more than tripled in 2020, with a significant increase in the second quarter of the year. 
  • The increase in social media scams fits the overall 2020 trend of more phishing scams on channels besides email. 
  • Some recent social media scams include romance scamsfake advertisements, and social media messages offering grant money or giveaways. 
  • To reduce the risk of falling for a social media scam, don’t click on any links from unknown messages, do research on any ad seen on social media, and never send money to someone you’ve never met in person. 
  • To learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530, or speak with an expert advisor via live-chat on the company website. 

There is an increase of social media scams in 2020, fitting the overall trend of the year of more phishing scams on channels besides email. Scams strike people in many different ways, ranging from robocalls to phishing attacks. While social media websites are another platform scammers use for their attacks, it’s not always the first place people think to monitor when they hear the phrase “phishing scams.” 

Scammers Take Advantage of More People Online During COVID-19 

However, 2020 is different. Social media is already a great place to connect, but especially right now due to COVID-19. More people are using social media, and scammers are aware. In fact, more scammers are hanging out on the sites, posing a greater threat for scams to users. Scammers know COVID-19 changes the way people live, and they try to take advantage in any way possible. 

New Report on Increase in Social Media Scams 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that people who lost money to scams that started on social media has more than tripled in 2020, with a significant increase in the second quarter of the year. The FTC says the growth has been happening for years, reporting social media scam fraud losses of $134 million in 2019.  

However, the first half of 2020 had $117 million in fraud losses from social media scams alone. Some recent social media scams include romance scamsfake advertisements, and social media messages offering grant money or giveaways. Often, scammers create fake profiles of people victims may know to take advantage of them. In some cases, scammers will even take over a real person’s account. 

How to Avoid a Social Media Scam 

Consumers can do a handful of things to reduce their risk of falling victim to a social media scam.  

  1. Check the validity of any ad you see on social media. Do a quick Google search of the supposed business followed by “complaints,” “reviews” or “scam.” This will help you determine whether or not the company has been reported or accused of any suspicious activity. Also, directly search for the company website. Any legitimate company will most likely have contact information on their webpage. 
  1. Never click on a link or open an attachment without verifying the validity of the message or ad. You can do this by directly reaching out to the company to see if they sent the message or posted the ad. If not, it is probably a scam. If you cannot find any contact information for the company, it is probably a scam. 
  1. Reach out directly by phone or email to the friend or family member asking for money or personal information. If they did not send the message, the sender’s account was probably hacked. 
  1. Never send money or personal information to someone you have never met in person. Imposter scams, where scammers try to trick people into giving up personal information or money by posing as someone fake, continue to rise throughout the country.  
  1. Regularly check your privacy settings on all of your social media platforms. Make it more challenging for scammers to target you by limiting what you share online. 

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center 

Consumers should be aware of the 2020 trend around scams and that scammers will continue to hang out in the social media space. However, if everyone does their part, they can still enjoy the platforms with minimal risk of falling for a social media scam.  

To learn more, or if you believe you are the victim of a social media scam, reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. Also, download the ITRC’s free ID Theft Help app for access to additional resources. 


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  • Election scams are beginning to appear, prompting the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to warn consumers that spoofed internet domains and email accounts pose cyber and disinformation risks to voters. 
  • Scammers are also looking to trick voters by mimicking ballot-tracking text services
  • Identity thieves are seeking many different forms of personally identifiable information (PII), looking to commit malware attacks, and creating fake websites to collect PII or spread false or misleading information. 
  • Consumers should never share PII, respond to any unexpected messages until they have verified the website address, email address or text message link by checking with the legitimate source.  
  • For more information, or if you fell victim to an election scam, reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or on our website via live-chat.  

The general election is less than one month away, and scammers are aware. Multiple voting organizations are expressing concerns over fake election-related websites that look like official voting resources, but contain false or misleading information, as well as phishing emails that are designed to gather personally identifiable information (PII) or spread malware. Some states are also seeing scammers trying to trick voters with phony text messages, like in California, where they mimic ballot-tracking text services. The FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) want to help people spot and avoid every form of election scam.  

Who It Is Targeting 

Voters; Online device users 

What It Is 

Scammers are using many different tactics to try to trick voters: 

  • They create fake election-related websites to spread misinformation, confuse people, or trick voters into sharing personal information ahead of the November 3 elections. According to the FBI and CISA, election scams around fake websites aim to mislead voters and try to use interest around voting to steal people’s passwords. Scammers create websites that try to imitate election websites by altering one or two letters in the site’s address.  
  • Another election scam the FBI and CISA want people to be aware of is phishing emails. Scammers email voters from spoofed addresses that appear to come from election officials.  
  • Scammers are using text messages to attack, too. Some text messages claim they are from the United States Postal Service (USPS). Others look like they are from the Registrar of Voters asking consumers to take a survey or re-register to vote. Some even offer prizes for voting or registering to vote. 

What They Are After 

“There’s risk to you personally,” James Lee, Chief Operating Officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), told NBC 7 San Diego in an interview. “And in this case, because we’re talking about an election, there’s risk to our society. There’s risk to our country.” 

All of these election scams try to steal usernames, passwords or email addresses. They lead to the collection of PII and spread malware, leading to the potential of more compromises and financial losses in the future. 

What You Can Do 

  • Verify the spelling of all websites, email addresses or links in text messages. Make sure domains consist of http or https at the beginning of the domain, and .gov at the end if it is a government website. 
  • If you receive an unexpected or unsolicited email or text message, ignore it and do not click on any links. Go directly to the source to verify the validity of the message. 
  • Find election information from trustworthy websites, like the Election Assistance Commission.  
  • Make sure all of your applications are up-to-date and update your anti-virus and anti-malware systems. 
  • If possible, use two-factor authentication (2FA) on your accounts.  
  • Disable or remove unneeded applications from your devices. 

If you believe you are a victim of an election scam or want to learn more, contact the ITRC to speak with an expert advisor toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with us on our company website. 

  • Scammers are taking advantage of Apple users eager to purchase the iPhone 12 with a chatbot scam offering “a free trial” of the new device.
  • Threat actors are looking to steal people’s credit card information and other identity information. They can use the information to commit financial identity theft.
  • Consumers are urged to ignore any suspicious text messages and verify their validity by going directly to the source.
  • Anyone who believes they are a victim of the phishing scam, or wants to learn more, can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530, or live-chat with an expert advisor on our website.

The iPhone 12 is expected to be released in October, and many are restlessly awaiting the anticipated launch. Scammers are aware and are sending iPhone 12 chatbot scams via text message, hoping to steal people’s personal information like names, addresses, and financial information like credit card numbers and security codes. While the scam tries to convince people they have won a free trial of the iPhone 12, the only ones winning with the iPhone 12 chatbot scam are the scammers.

Who It Is Targeting

Apple product users

What It Is

It’s a mobile phishing campaign that is spreading through text messages. The text messages from the iPhone 12 chatbot scam appear to come from an Apple chatbot offering free trials for the iPhone 12 before its release. When people click on the link in the text message, it triggers multiple text messages, ending with one saying the user qualifies for a test group before taking them to a “payment” screen for shipping charges.

What They Are After

The iPhone 12 chatbot scam is ultimately after people’s credit card information. After people click through the questions and learn they are “eligible,” they are taken to the “payment” screen where they are asked to enter their credit card information because there is a “courier delivery charge.” Once victims give out their personally identifiable information (PII), scammers can then use it to commit identity theft.

What You Can Do

  • If you receive a text message you are not expecting that requires you to act, ignore it. Instead, go directly to the source to verify the validity of the message.
  • Look for grammatical errors and stylistic issues in the text message to spot the phishing scam.
  • Remember, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Do not enter any personal information or click on any links for an offer unless you confirm it is legitimate.

If you believe you have fallen victim to the iPhone 12 chatbot scam or have additional questions, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with an expert advisor on the company website.


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