Grandparent scams have been around for a long time. However, scammers are coming up with a new twist based on the coronavirus. COVID-19 grandparent scams are playing on the fears many people have right now, that they might lose a loved one.

Who Is It Targeting: Phone and email users

What Is It: A grandparent scam is a phishing scam that claims your family member is in trouble

What Are They After: Scammers are posing as grandchildren who claim they are sick and need money to pay their hospital bills. The information is easily gleaned from social media accounts, giving the caller a name that the person knows to use in their scam. In the current times of the coronavirus, COVID-19 grandparent scams can be particularly compelling.

How You Can Avoid It:

  • Never make a payment over the phone to anyone you do not know or were not expecting to hear from
  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is
  • If you receive a call like one of these, say that you have to go to the store or bank to secure the money and have them call you back; during that time, reach out to your friend or relative to confirm that they are okay

If people have questions regarding COVID-19 grandparent scams, they are encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center through the website to live chat with an expert 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 provide assistance as quickly as possible.


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This post will be updated as more information becomes available

UPDATE 4/1/2020 – The Treasury Department and the IRS have announced that the distribution of stimulus checks will begin within the next three weeks and that most of them will be deposited directly, requiring no action. Anyone who does not typically file a tax return will need to file a simple tax return to receive their stimulus check.

If there is anyone who has not filed their 2019 tax return but did file a 2018 return, the IRS will use the information provided in the 2018 return. The Treasury also plans on creating a web-based portal where people can enter their direct-deposit information online. The stimulus checks will be available to consumers through the end of 2020. For more information, consumers can visit IRS.gov/coronavirus. To learn more about the stimulus checks, click here. For tax rules to help you fill out your 2019 taxes, click here.

ORIGINAL 3/27/2020- With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting everyone across the United States, the U.S. federal government has passed the largest stimulus package ever to help minimize financial impacts businesses and consumers. Coronavirus stimulus checks are being mentioned in the news daily, which is leading fraudsters to come up with stimulus check scams.

While there is a lot of speculation about what these payments might look like, all anyone knows right now is that the $2 trillion stimulus package has been passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The details around how the coronavirus stimulus checks will be distributed are still being worked out.

If anyone receives any messages or letters regarding a government check, it is very likely a coronavirus stimulus check scam. The government will not ask anyone for anyone’s Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number; the government will also not ask anyone to pay a fee upfront to get their government check; there will not be a way to “expedite payment” through a service provider either.

While the details around the stimulus package are still being worked out, it has been reported that people will not have to sign up to receive their coronavirus stimulus check. Instead, it will be an automatic process for anyone that qualifies. The IRS is expected to distribute the funds based on the direct deposit information consumers provided in their 2018 or 2019 tax returns. That means all people will have to do is wait for their stimulus check to arrive via direct deposit.

If anyone did not provide their bank account information on their last tax return, the IRS will mail people their stimulus checks. There have also been discussions about the possibility of sending some payments to consumers on prepaid debit cards to speed up the process. Once again, it is not yet known how the coronavirus stimulus checks will be disbursed. If someone reaches out saying that they can get the stimulus payment to you on a debit/credit card, please report it to local authorities or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

However, with the stimulus package passing, people can expect to see a rise in stimulus check scams. If the government ends up mailing checks and/or prepaid debit cards, people can also expect to see a rise in prepaid card scams and physical mail theft.

To avoid any of these scams, consumers should make sure they have filed their taxes and have provided their direct deposit information to the IRS in their latest tax return. Consumers should also check to see if they are qualified to receive a coronavirus stimulus check, and for how much.

Finally, if consumers receive anything that does not seem correct or something they are not expecting, they should ignore it and go directly to the source to verify its legitimacy. There is a possibility it could be a stimulus check scam.

If people have questions regarding stimulus check scams, they are encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center through the website to live chat with an expert advisor. For those that cannot access the website, 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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Due to the coronavirus, the stock market is making headlines right now, for all the wrong reasons. Scammers see it as the perfect time to prey on consumers with investment scams.

Who Is It Targeting: Small-time, first-time, and seasoned investors

What Is It: Various scams that target novice and seasoned investors

What Are They After: When the stock market makes headlines—whether good or bad—scammers are more prone to come after unsuspecting consumers and steal their money. Some investment scams may simply tell victims to invest heavily in a certain stock, while others will actively trick investors into handing over their personally identifiable information. With news of the coronavirus growing each day, this is also a time when spoofed emails—such as those that appear to come from a financial institution or brokerage—can lure someone in and steal their account access.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Do not act on instinct or be driven by panic
  • Remember that the stock market is a long-term prospect, not a “get rich quick” scheme
  • Always seek out professional information before you respond or take action

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or an investment scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. You can also live chat with an expert advisor. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from TMJ4.com


Scammers have gotten creative as the COVID-19 pandemic has driven most people to spend their days in their homes – including creating phishing emails that attack both businesses and consumers. Fraudsters are currently taking advantage of the millions of people working from home. They may try representing themselves as the U.S. government, whether it be about a stimulus check, unemployment benefits, etc. Now, with the National Guard and other types of support being implemented in certain areas, the alarm is being sounded on scammers going door-to-door.

The National Guard is being deployed to assist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency work in some states. Some of the aspects of their duties include helping FEMA with gathering swabs and transporting them to certified labs for testing; delivering medical supplies as directed and creating medical stations. The National Guard says they have been activated for logistical support, and are not being deployed for enforcement. That means they will not be going door-to-door to implement any self-quarantines or shelter-in-place orders. If a “military personnel” comes to a person’s door posing as a National Guardsmen, the healthcare department or a healthcare professional regarding COVID-19, whether it is with a “test,” “cure” or regarding sheltering in place, it is likely a scam.

With that being the case, interactions someone may have with the National Guard would be at an identified FEMA drive-thru testing station or designated location for medical assistance. These two scenarios are examples of where you may be asked to provide personal information to the National Guard in reference to COVID-19 relief.

These types of door-to-door scams are not uncommon during a time of crisis. Scammers typically use them as an opportunity to pose as someone who can help people, but in reality, all they will do is hurt them.

If someone is going door-to-door posing as a utility worker, law enforcement, government agency or healthcare professional, ask for their identification before engaging in any conversation. Providing an ID card doesn’t always mean the person is legitimate because it is easy for a scammer to create what might look like an ID, dress up and act like someone else. If the person at the door is reluctant to show their ID or you have concerns about their legitimacy, close the door and call the organization that they are representing.

Also, if someone comes to a person’s door offering that if a fee is paid, they can provide faster service for aid, it is a scam. In fact, that is one of the go-to tactics scammers use to lure victims in. In the event that you are asked to provide personally identifiable information by someone on your doorstep, calling the organization that they are representing could prevent you from self-compromising sensitive information.

Finally, if someone is uncomfortable with anyone who comes to their door, they should call their local law enforcement. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

If people have questions regarding COVID-19 scams, they are encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center through the website to live chat with an expert advisor. For those that cannot access the website, 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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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow and seriously impacts everyone across the country, so do the number of COVID-19 scams that will pop-up trying to get access to personally identifiable information (PII) and finances. It can be difficult to decipher which emails, phone calls, social media posts or text messages are scams versus legitimate ones. Scammers will always take advantage of new opportunities in a time of crisis like evictions and foreclosures assistance, unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, etc. Here are some tips to help navigate those emails, text messages and voicemails:

Go to the source

Unsure if something is legitimate? Go to the source of the potential assistance. That means if the offer of unemployment benefits seems to be uncharacteristic, go directly to the employment development department and check their website. If it has to do with housing – whether that’s eviction or foreclosure assistance – head to that source (local housing commission, banking institution, etc.). Don’t trust an inbound message that isn’t verifiable.

Unsure of how a fraudster might try to get consumers to self-compromise?

Based on experience, the ITRC anticipates that they will give these a go:

1. Government Checks: Consumers receiving an email or phone call from someone that claims they can ensure a check from the government for an individual right now; it is likely a COVID-19 scam. The government is still working on the details of how these funds will be made available as of the original date of this post. For specific details, consumers can always visit local, state or federal government websites to get the most accurate information.

2. Asking for Verification of PII: If someone calls asking for a Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card number or bank account information, it is a high probability that it is a scam. Say “K, Bye”, hang up and call the company directly to see if the offer is legitimate. If it is real, they will have a record of the calls and offers that were made.

3. Pay Upfront for Government Assistance: The government will not ask consumers to pay upfront to get any of the relief money. Scammers have attempted this before with the “Federal Government Empowerment Money Program” scam.

4. Social Media: If consumers receive messages on a social media platform claiming to be the government for anything regarding COVID-19, anticipate that this is a COVID-19 scam, too. Report it to the social media platform and block the sender. The government does not contact individuals through social media. Additionally, posts or messages enticing individuals to “sign-up” to receive more information on how to get access to more information or funds should be considered gateways to compromising PII.

5. Emails: There are loads of phishing emails under the guise as COVID-19 help. If an email arrives that wasn’t expected, ignore it and go directly to the source to determine whether or not it is legitimate. Under no circumstances should consumers click on any links or open any attachments from unanticipated emails or texts. COVID-19 scams via phishing emails are going around right now attacking both businesses and consumers.

6. Phone Calls: COVID-19 phone scams are beginning to gain steam and something else consumers should be aware of. The advice for phone scams is pretty similar to email scams. Don’t answer calls from numbers you do not recognize and do not return calls from voicemails if you aren’t completely sure from whom the call originated. Should a call regarding COVID-19 assistance inadvertently get answered, say “K, Bye!,” hang up and directly call the source. Verify the legitimacy of the call.

7. Grandparent Scams: Grandparent scams have been around for a long time and play on the fear of loved ones. Recently, scammers have been posing as family members that are sick and need money to pay their medical bills. It is important for people to resist the urge to act, no matter how dramatic the story is. People should also never make a payment over email or the phone to someone they were not expecting to hear from. Instead, they should hang up and reach out to the mentioned loved one directly to see if they are okay.

Scammers Take Advantage of Public Events

Every time there is a crisis, natural disaster or newsworthy event, expect scammers to come out in full force looking to take advantage and play on the public’s fear of the unknown. It is important to not let scammers take advantage of us while scared and unsure of what to do. These tips should help reduce the risk of falling victim to a COVID-19 scam.

Contact ITRC For Free Assistance

You can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free if you think you may have been a victim of any type of scam at 888.400.5530. You can also live chat with one of our expert advisors for assistance.

Don’t forget to download the ITRC’s ID Theft Help App to help in managing your identity crime case should you find that you are a victim of a scam.


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As too many victims have already learned, there is something worse than just being a scammer’s prey. That something worse is being pulled into the scam yourself until you are (inadvertently) a criminal as well. There are a variety of scams, including romance scams, work-from-home scams and lottery scams, in which being snared in the scammer’s trap can leave you facing jail time. It is what is called a money mule scam.

In a money mule scam, criminals get someone else to move funds for them. It might be cashing checks and mailing the money to other people, depositing funds into your account and buying items that you send elsewhere, or any other similar kind of transaction.

First, never give money to someone you have met online, no matter what excuse they give you. However, the flip side is that you should never accept money from someone either. Ask yourself why this person is using you as their own personal ATM, or why you are the one buying iPads or smartphones and shipping them to other people. Why can’t your “friend” do it themselves?

The answer is not a good one. There is no legitimate, legal reason why someone can manage to send you money but cannot make a purchase for themselves or transfer that money to a different individual. The only reason to do it is to avoid putting their name on the paper trail, or because residents of their home country are not allowed to make the purchase or transaction. Most likely, though, is that the original funds were stolen. You are now the person who deposited that stolen money into your bank account, and you can be subject to a criminal investigation as a result.

One variation of the money mule scam includes overpayment scams. This happens when someone sends you money—often for a fake “work from home” job, an invoice to your company, or even a purchase like buying your used car—and then claims they have overpaid you. When you accept their funds and send some of it back, you are not only taking the risk that their check was bad and the refund actually came out of your own account balance. Worse, their original funds may have been stolen. You took possession of the stolen money (which can be a crime) and then turned around and moved those funds back to them from your account, which can fall under money laundering.

What do you do if you think someone is using you as part of a money mule scam?

  1. Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center and the Federal Trade Commission for help and information.
  2. Stop making any sort of transactions immediately.
  3. Monitor your accounts to ensure the scammers are not still able to access your funds.
  4. File a police report if you have lost any of your own funds in interacting with the scammers.

Money mule scams are some of the most dangerous scams because they can inadvertently turn victims into criminals. Do what you can to educate yourself to reduce your risk of falling victim.


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Did you get a letter in the mail about the census? The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a rise in our contact center through calls and LiveChat messages recently about a letter from the U.S. Census that people have been getting in the mail titled “My 2020 Census.” Callers are afraid it might be a scam because of the word “my” before “2020 Census.”

The ITRC has verified the legitimacy of this letter and is not a scam. The official U.S. Census Bureau website “2020census.gov” will direct people to “ https://my2020census.gov/,” where you will start your individual questionnaire. You will then be asked to log in with the 12-digit Census code provided in the materials that were mailed to you. It is safe to login with the 12-digit code and is not a scam.

The U.S. Census Bureau also has an alert on its website that individuals will receive this letter between March 12-20, 2020.

Image from https://my2020census.gov/

The ITRC is encouraged by all of the calls and messages to the contact center because if something seems suspicious, you should always reach out to a verifiable resource to confirm or deny the validity of the letter, email, etc. The U.S. Census Bureau also has a helpful page about how to verify a census survey, mailing or contact here: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/surveyhelp/verify-a-survey.html  

Update as of 3/20/20: During this time of quarantine due to COVID-19, all Census field operations have been suspended. As noted in a press release, “Beginning today, in support of guidance on what we can all do to help slow the spread of coronavirus, 2020 Census field operations will be suspended for two weeks until April 1, 2020.” This means if someone knocks at your door claiming to be from the U.S. Census Bureau, it is a scam and you do not provide them any information.

If you get a letter in the mail in the coming days titled “My Census 2020,” follow the instructions on it and take part in the survey. If you have any questions, call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live chat with one of our advisors.


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First, hackers were taking advantage of the global pandemic coronavirus news coronavirus with an email scam that targeted consumers. Now, they are targeting businesses with a new coronavirus business scam.

Just like the last scam, criminals are using the concerns over the outbreak to unleash malware. They are continuing to try and find ways to make money by playing off everyone’s concerns and fears.

This coronavirus business scam is targeting professionals by sending phishing emails that look like a company’s purchase order for facemasks or other supplies that could trick employees into making payments to a fraudulent account. Scammers are also sending phishing emails about a company’s remote-work plan in hopes to get a response that provides personal details.

According to Proofpoint’s analysis cited in an article for the Wall Street Journal, attackers have sent emails containing nearly a dozen types of malware. Some of these emails even include company logos, instructions and attachments.

As long as the coronavirus stays in the headlines, so will the scams. In order to avoid these scams, it is critical that everyone adopt and develop good cybersecurity behaviors and habits. Here are a couple of tips to help you reduce your risk of falling victim to a coronavirus business scam.

  • Never click a link, open an attachment or download a file that you are not expecting. Instead, you should contact the sender to verify its authenticity. If the sender is not someone you regularly interact with, ignore the email. If it is someone you know, still verify the email before you click any links or open any attachments.
  • Do not share or forward emails about the coronavirus unless you have verified its authenticity. They are often alarmist to the point of being hoaxes or contain outdated details. In the case of the coronavirus scam, they contain dangerous links.

It is important to stay up-to-date on all major events. In order to stay on top of the news, go directly to trusted sources like the CDC or World Health Organization for updates and information.

If you believe you have fallen victim to a coronavirus scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. You can also live chat with us. Our advisors will help guide you through your case and provide you with the proper resources.


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A new PayPal phishing scam is making the rounds that are hard to spot, which emphasizes the importance of using an abundance of caution when you receive a message you are not expecting.

Phishing scams work by tricking people into clicking a link, opening an attachment or redirecting to a website. From there, the scammers might install harmful software on your computer, infect your entire network with a virus, steal your login credentials or other similar tactics. Some phishing scams are much simpler, though, like the infamous Nigerian prince emails that trick people into sending money or paying a fee.

There are two different kinds of phishing scams. Some of them, like the ones that claim the sender needs help getting hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country, can be somewhat unrealistic and filled with grammar errors.

The other kind is more sophisticated. They might contain cut-and-paste corporate logos, copied wording from a real company communication, perhaps a copycat address that could fool savvy consumers. Those phishing attempts are trying to convince the recipient that there is something legitimately wrong with their account, their tax return or some other plausible situation.

A new PayPal phishing scam that pretends to be from PayPal is a good example. This message has a very friendly tone, correct spelling and grammar and even has the company’s image in the message. It informs the recipient that PayPal was unable to process their refund of a high-dollar value amount and to please go to Member Support for assistance. As part of the PayPal phishing scam, the handy link is even provided in the message.

Since the recipient does not remember sending or refunding hundreds of dollars, they might click the link to find out what is going on. That is when the scammers have redirected them to a different site where the consumer will type their login credentials—while the scammers steal that information—and see that it was all a big mistake and nothing is wrong. It is also possible that clicking the link will instead install malicious software like a virus on the user’s computer.

In any event, the same advice as always applies: never click a link, open an attachment, download a file or follow through with any instructions in a message that you were not specifically expecting.

Instead, ignore the message. Simply contact the company yourself using a verified contact method that you looked up, not one that may have been provided in the message (it could lead you right back to the scammers). Once you go to your account or contact customer service, you will discover that everything is fine. On the off chance there really is a problem with your account, you will also be able to fix it right then. The Identity Theft Resource Center is here to help if you believe you are a victim of the new PayPal phishing scam. Call one of our advisors’ toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live chat with an advisor. They will walk you through the next steps you need to take.


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