• Advanced child tax credit payments are being sent by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as part of the American Rescue Plan. However, scammers may try to take advantage of the funds with child tax credit scams.
  • The IRS will not call, text, email or message you about a child tax credit. If you receive an unsolicited message, it is a scam.
  • To avoid a child text credit scam, do not respond to any unsolicited messages or click on any unknown links or attachments. Also, report the fraudulent activity to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by emailing reportfraud@ftc.gov and the IRS by calling 800.829.4933.
  • For more information on the child tax credit, who is eligible, how to submit your information and more, click here.
  • If you believe you are the victim of a child tax credit scam or another form of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has sent approximately $15 billion to around 35 million families eligible for the advanced child tax credit. With the process underway, parents should look out for child tax credit scams. No eligible taxpayer has to do anything to receive the money, but criminals may try to say otherwise.

What You Need to Know About the Advanced Child Tax Credit

The advanced child tax credit was included in the American Rescue Plan, and it provides $250 to $300 per month per child to most families from July through December 2021. The IRS is paying half the total credit amount in advance monthly payments. The payments will come via direct deposit, paper check or debit card (more than 85 percent of the funds have been sent by direct deposit). Parents will claim the other half when they file their 2021 income tax return.

The IRS urges taxpayers who usually aren’t required to file federal income tax returns to file a return if they are eligible for Economic Impact Payments or advance payments of the Child Tax Credit. Learn more from the IRS about the advanced child tax credit, who is eligible, how to submit your information and much more.

Child Tax Credit Scams

Criminals are aware of the payments and will likely launch child tax credit scams. Criminals may impersonate IRS representatives just to steal your personally identifiable information (PII) like a Social Security number or bank account information. PII can be used to pose as you on the IRS website and reroute your money to the cybercriminals.  

The ITRC’s CEO Eva Velasquez recently told NerdWallet: “Do not rely on incoming communications. If you didn’t initiate the contact, don’t engage. Caller I.D. cannot be trusted; even if a government agency’s name is listed, thieves may have originated the call and spoofed the caller I.D. display.”

What Should You Do?

The IRS says parents do not have to take any action to receive the advanced child tax credit funds. If you want to opt-out of the IRS payments or change your information, you can do that at www.irs.gov. Here are other tips on how to avoid an advanced child tax credit scam:

  • Don’t respond to solicited communication. The IRS will not call, text, email or message you. If you receive a message claiming to be from the IRS, ignore it. The IRS will mail you anything that is legitimate, and there are ways you can make sure it is from the Service.
  • Don’t click on any unknown links. If you receive a message claiming to be from the IRS, it is important not to click on any links or attachments because they could be malicious and used to steal your personal information. They could also lead you to a fraudulent website that asks you to input sensitive PII.
  • Know who is supposed to receive the check. If you share custody of a child, make sure you know who is supposed to receive the check because sometimes a “missing” check has actually been delivered.
  • Report child tax credit scams and fraud. If someone tries to take advantage of you with a child tax credit scam, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by emailing reportfraud@ftc.gov. If you believe someone stole the check from your mailbox, contact the IRS (800.829.4933) because they can trace the check and replace the money.
  • Track your check. If it is mailed to you, go to www.USPS.com and sign up for Informed Delivery, which emails you photos of your mail before it is delivered. When your check is expected, pick up your mail or have someone do it for you as quickly as possible to avoid a repeat of earlier problems with government check deliveries.

Contact the ITRC

For more information on child tax credit payments, or if you believe you were the victim of a child tax credit scam, contact us. You can speak with an expert advisor at no cost by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

  • Did you recently receive a phone call claiming to be from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? Homeland Security phone scams are making the rounds, leaving some people in a panic.
  • In the Homeland Security scam phone calls, criminals are impersonating both Homeland Security Investigations Office agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. One scam threatens people with warrants and investigations if they do not give up either money or personal information. Another scam claims cash and drugs were intercepted with your name on it and asks for banking information.
  • If you receive a threatening phone call from a Homeland Security Investigations agent or an unsolicited call from a CBP agent, you should hang up because it is probably a Homeland Security phone scam. DHS will never call anyone with demands or requests for sensitive information. Instead, report the call to DHS and the Federal Trade Commission.
  • If you want to learn more, believe you are the victim of a phone scam, or if you have been receiving Homeland Security scam phone calls, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) at no cost by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is usually the agency issuing a fraud alert informing the public about the latest scams, like DHS giving a new warning about immigration scams from the Department’s Ombudsman office. However, now criminals are trying to get your money and personal information by impersonating Homeland Security agents, particularly in the Philadelphia and Miami areas. DHS officials say the calls are part of a Homeland Security phone scam and are intended to frighten people. DHS agents will never call you unsolicited.

Who are the Targets?

Phone users; Non-U.S. citizens

What is the Scam?

Identity criminals impersonate agents from the DHS Investigations Office and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In one Homeland Security phone scam, criminals threaten you with arrest or an investigation if you do not provide payment in the form of “immigration bonds” or sensitive information. Other Homeland Security scam phone calls have a pre-recorded message that says, “a box of drugs and money being shipped has your (caller’s) name on it, and it has been intercepted.” They then instruct the caller to press #1 to speak with a CBP agent, attempting to get the caller’s banking information.  

What They Want

Scammers hope to steal either money or personal information. The personal information and bank account information can be used to commit an array of different identity crimes in your name.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

  • The DHS Investigations Office will never call you with demands like those included in the current scams. If you receive a threatening call, hang up because it is a Homeland Security phone scam. Do not give them any money or personal information.
  • Also, DHS Investigations and CBP do not solicit money over the phone. If you get a call like that, note the number, any other pertinent details about the call and then hang up.
  • If you receive Homeland Security scam phone calls, report them to the DHS Investigations Field Office or the CBP, even if you did not fall for the scam. Phone scams can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission online at reportfraud.ftc.gov/.

To learn more about Homeland Security scam phone calls, or if you believe you were the victim of a phone scam, contact the ITRC 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.  

  • Businesses are re-hiring team members after COVID-19 lockdowns. However, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is also seeing a rise in online job scams, particularly mystery shopper scams. The ITRC has seen a 250 percent increase in mystery shopper scams from June to July.
  • Job scams are not uncommon. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 16,012 people reported being victims of employment scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $59 million.
  • Law enforcement agencies across the country are also seeing the rise. The St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana is asking its citizens to be on the lookout for online job scams. The FBI wants people to watch for fake job listings.
  • To avoid a job scam, only use a reputable website for employment opportunities, be careful how much personal information you share and don’t pay upfront costs.
  • To learn more about online job scams, contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat by visiting www.idtheftcenter.org.

Updated 7/21/2021: With many people vaccinated for COVID-19, most businesses are reopening and rehiring team members. Criminals are also looking to take advantage of the surge in hiring. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a rise in the number of online job scam reports to its contact center, particularly mystery shopper scams. In fact, the ITRC has seen a 250 percent increase in mystery shopper scams from June 2021 to July 2021.

The ITRC is not the only organization to see the job scam uptick. The St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana is urging its citizens to be on the lookout for online job scams. The FBI wants people to keep an eye out for fake job listings.

Work-From-Home Job Scams

While vaccinations are on the rise, the pandemic is still ongoing, meaning many people are still looking for jobs where they can work from their homes. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), criminals are aware of this and are posting the “perfect” work-from-home jobs, claiming you can be your own boss and set your schedule. They claim you can make a lot of money in a short amount of time and with little effort.

Mystery Shopper Scams

Mystery shopping has been around for a long time. Mystery shoppers help businesses, retailers and restaurants get information on the quality of their stores in exchange for money. In the past, scammers have found ways to turn the service into a mystery shopper scam, also known as a secret shopper scam. The ITRC saw a spike in 2020, and is seeing a rise again. There are different forms of mystery shopping scams. Click here to learn more.

Tips to Avoid an Online Job Scam

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 16,012 people reported being victims of employment scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $59 million. While you are looking for the right job, there are a few things to remember:

  • Know the source of the job listing and only use reputable websites to find employment opportunities. This will require you to do some research. Look online for independent sources of information. While the company’s website or advertisement may show testimonials or reviews from satisfied employees, they could still be fake. Instead, you should search the name of the company or the person who’s hiring you and add a word like “scam,” “review” or “complaint.” Searching for “Acme Co Scams” will give you search results that show if the company is legitimate and if it has been associated with fraud. You will often see what other employees and customers think of the would-be employer.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be mindful of unsolicited emails and offers with outrageous claims, such as “Earn $3,000 a week working from home.”
  • Once you find a job posting, be careful how much personal information you share, at least during the application period. If a company claims they want to do a phone, Skype or Zoom interview due to social distancing and safety, that’s okay. However, it does not mean you should turn over sensitive personal information like your Social Security number (SSN) until you have been given a job offer contingent on passing a background check (which requires an SSN). Also, before you accept an offer or send a potential employer your personal information, run the job offer or posting by someone you trust.
  • Legitimate jobs don’t usually require any upfront fees or costs. Even things like company uniforms or specialized equipment like steel-toed shoes are often deducted from the first paycheck or purchased by the employee through an outside company. Typically, a form of payment is not requested. If an employer asks for a finder’s fee, administrative fee, background check fee or other funds, it is probably a scam. Even for legitimate actions like submitting a bank account number and routing number for direct depositing of paychecks, it’s vital to ensure the company is legitimate and the job has already been awarded before submitting the information. Also, don’t pay for the promise of a job. Only scammers will ask you to pay to get a job.
  • Don’t send money to your new boss. If a potential employer or new boss sends you a check, asks you to deposit it and then buy gift cards, it is a scam. While the check may look like it cleared and the funds look available in your account, the check is still fake and you will be responsible for any purchases.
  • Never pay to be a mystery shopper. Don’t wire money or send a “deposit” via PayPal, Venmo or Zelle. Also, to avoid a mystery shopper scam, cash the check at an issuing bank or wait until the money has not just posted but cleared the other account. If the check is not good, the victim can return the cash into their account.

Contact the ITRC

There are many different job scams, particularly online job scams. If you have questions, want to learn more or if you believe you were the victim of an online job scam, contact us. You can speak with an expert advisor by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

  • Multiple states including California, Florida, Colorado and more, are offering lottery & sweepstakes incentive programs for COVID-19 vaccine recipients but scammers are taking advantage of the eager consumers. 
  • Scammers are posing as government officials and informing vaccine recipients they have won a lottery and follow-through by asking for bank details and Social Security numbers. 
  • To avoid these scams, be on alert for anyone asking for banking and personal information that can lead to financial identity theft. 
  • If anyone believes they are a victim of a COVID-19 lottery or sweepstakes scam, they can contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

Millions of U.S. residents have already received their COVID-19 vaccine and are automatically entered into their state’s lottery or sweepstakes program, which scammers are cashing in on as well. For example, California residents are reporting  COVID-19 vaccine scams where criminals pose as government officials with fake notifications claiming they have won the lottery. The scammer then asks for personal or banking data to claim their prize. 

Who are the Targets? 

Residents of states with lotteries or other vaccination incentives; vaccine recipients 

What is the Scam? 

Criminals are posing as government officials and informing vaccine recipients they have won the lottery and ask for bank details and Social Security numbers.   

What They Want 

Scammers can use your banking information from these COVID-19 vaccine lottery scams to commit financial identity theft or sell your information to other cybercriminals. They are also looking to collect “lottery fees” upfront. Remember, you should never pay money to receive money especially in a contest, sweepstakes or lottery. 

How to Avoid Being Scammed 

  • California and Colorado state residents 18 and older who receive the vaccine are automatically entered to win based on shot registration information and do not need to enter. However, Kentucky and Oregon residents must enter through the official website. Be sure to check with your state’s program on entering rules. 
  • If you are a lottery winner, you do not need to pay money or provide your banking information to claim your prize. 
  • Always go directly to the source to verify if the information is coming from a legitimate source. In this case, check with the Department of Public Health or lottery authority in your state. 
  • If you’ve received a phishing email, text or phone call, report it. You can report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.  

If anyone believes they are a victim of a COVID-19 lottery or sweepstakes scam, they can contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

  • E-signature scams are rising as remote workers rely more on services like DocuSign, HelloSign and other similar services. Recently, some employees at the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) received phishing emails that claimed to have an invoice to sign that was attached to the email.  
  • Other e-signature email scams ask people to enter their personal and financial information, claiming that they either have a notification or their account was suspended.  
  • These e-signature scams and phishing attacks can lead to malware and stolen personal and financial data used to commit different forms of identity crimes.  
  • To avoid these scams, you should ignore any emails you are not expecting, never click on any unknown links and reach out directly to the person the email claims to come from to verify the validity of the message.  
  • If anyone believes they are a victim of an e-signature scam or wants to learn more, they can contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

DocuSign and similar services that offer verified electronic signatures have grown in popularity since COVID-19. According to one e-signature company’s recent financial report, their total revenue has increased by more than 50 percent. It’s no surprise more people need the services of an e-signature company. It is also no surprise that e-signature scams are spiking as a result. Multiple Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) employees recently received emails claiming to be from DocuSign with “invoices” attached: 

While convenient, e-signature services give threat actors another way to steal identities and financial and personal data. Consumers should keep an eye out for e-signature email scams so they don’t fall victim to a phishing attack.  

Who are the Targets? 

DocuSign users; Email users; Employees 

What is the Scam? 

In the latest e-signature scams, criminals send phishing emails claiming to come from “DocuSign Electronic Service.” The subject line typically tells users they received an invoice or notification from a service – DocuSign Electronic Service – for example. The emails contain malicious attachments that could lead to malware. Other e-signature scams tell people that they have a notification or their account is suspended and to click on a link and enter their personal and financial information. 

What They Want 

Criminals commit malware attacks and steal people’s personal and financial information to execute an array of identity crimes. They use the information to access people’s bank accounts, credit card accounts and work accounts, or they sell the personal information to other criminals. 

How to Avoid Being Scammed 

  • If you have not been requested to sign any documents, be wary of an email asking you to sign something. It is probably a phishing attack. 
  • Look for misspellings in the email. Sometimes scammers will alter a letter in the sender’s email address, hoping you do not notice. For example, if it is a DocuSign email scam, the sender address may be “@docsgn.com” instead of “@docusign.com.” 
  • Always check the sender’s email. If the email comes from an address or name you do not recognize, ignore it. If it claims to be from someone you work with, contact that person directly and ask them if they sent you the document. 
  • Never click on any links in an email you are not expecting. Instead, contact the source of the email directly to verify the validity of the email. 
  • If you’ve receive a phishing email, report it. You can report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.  

To learn more about e-signature scams, or if you believe you were the victim of an e-signature email scam, contact the ITRC 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.   

  • The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, working with the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore, recently seized the fake COVID-19 vaccine website “Freevaccinecovax.org.”
  • The website collected personal information from people who visited it by asking them to download a PDF file to their device to apply for more information.
  • Interacting on a malicious website offering COVID-19 vaccines could lead to an array of identity crimes, including a phishing attack, malware attack and different forms of social engineering.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are not being sold online. Any link that claims to take someone to a website to purchase one is fake. To find a vaccine appointment online, people should go through their local department of health, pharmacy or health care provider.
  • For more information on fake COVID-19 vaccine websites, or if you believe you are a victim of a COVID-19 vaccine scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Federal officials shut down a fake COVID-19 vaccine website after discovering the website was stealing people’s personal information for cybercriminal activity. According to Threatpost, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore, seized “Freevaccinecovax.org,” “which purported to be the website of a biotechnology company developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus,” according to a news release on the office’s website.

Since the U.S. began administering the COVID-19 vaccines, cybercriminals have tried to take advantage of consumer’s desire for vaccinations. According to NBC 4 Washington, BrandShield, a global cybersecurity firm protecting some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies from cyberthreats, found a 4,200 percent increase in potentially fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine websites from January 2020 through the end of February 2021. The news of the latest malicious website highlights the importance of being cautious with COVID-19 vaccine websites and how to use them.

Who are the Targets?

People looking to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

What is the Scam?

Threat actors created “Freevaccinecovax.org” to collect personal information from people who visited the website to commit identity crimes like fraud, phishing attacks or to deploy malware. Threatpost says the fake COVID-19 vaccine website used trademarked logos for Pfizer, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on its homepage to trick people into believing it was a legitimate site. The malicious website had a drop-down menu that asked users to apply for information by downloading a PDF file to their device.

What They Want

Identity criminals are after people’s personal information to commit phishing attacks, malware attacks, social engineering and other forms of identity-related fraud.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

To avoid a fake COVID-19 website:

  • Ignore websites trying to sell a vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are not being sold online. Any link that claims to take you to a website to purchase one is fake.
  • Do not click on any posts or ads claiming to sell cures. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you are checking for a vaccine appointment online, make sure you do it through your local department of health, pharmacy or health care provider. Never follow a link randomly sent to you.

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccine scams, malicious websites, or if you believe you were on a fake COVID-19 vaccine website, 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.  

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that criminals are creating COVID-19 funeral scams. The announcement comes just days after the federal agency launched a new program to provide relief to the families of loved ones who died from COVID-19.
  • As part of the funeral scam, criminals contact people offering to register them for funeral assistance. Identity thieves are looking to steal money, as well as personal and financial information, to commit identity theft.
  • If you receive an unsolicited message offering to assist in registering for the program, you should contact FEMA directly. Also, you should never pay a fee or share personal information with anyone who sends an unsolicited message to obtain a government benefit on your behalf.
  • To report a funeral scam, call FEMA’s Helpline at 800.621.3362. To learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat at the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is doing what it can to help the families of loved ones who died from COVID-19. However, due to criminals, everyone needs to be on the lookout for COVID-19 funeral scams.

FEMA started a program in mid-April that offers up to $9,000 in relief to help families cover the funeral expenses for those who passed after June 20, 2020, from COVID-19. However, criminals have found a way to take advantage of the newest program.

FEMA has sounded the alarm with a fraud alert. They have received reports of scammers reaching out to people by phone, email, and online, offering to register them for funeral assistance. However, FEMA says that is not how the program works.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has received more than 1,500 reports of identity fraud related to government benefits since the beginning of the pandemic.

Who are the Targets?

The families and friends of loved ones who died from COVID-19 who are applying for FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program.

What is the Scam?

FEMA says criminals are contacting people and offering to register them for funeral assistance. However, the criminals are asking for “fees” and other options to “expedite the process” to register for funeral expenses.

According to FEMA, any efforts that charge fees to assist in the application process are scams. The application process begins when you call the agency’s Funeral Assistance Line at 844.684.6333. FEMA will not contact you about the program unless you have already contacted them.

What They Want

Scammers hope to make away with either money or you or your deceased loved one’s personal information to commit an identity crime in you or your loved one’s name.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

  • If someone contacts you about the assistance program and you did not either apply or call FEMA directly, ignore it because it is a COVID-19 funeral scam. FEMA will not reach out until you either call them or apply for assistance.
  • Do not pay a fee for quicker service because that is another sign of a funeral scam. The government will not ask you to pay anything to get the FEMA benefits.
  • Do not provide your own or your deceased loved one’s personal or financial information to anyone based on an unsolicited call, text message, or email claiming to come from FEMA or another federal agency.
  • If you received a COVID-19 funeral scam call or email, report it to the FEMA Helpline at 800.621.3362.

Contact the ITRC

If you believe you are a victim of the COVID-19 funeral scam, received a suspicious message and want to know if it is a funeral scam, or want to learn more, contact the ITRC toll-free. You can call (888.400.5530) or use the live-chat function on the company website. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.