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  • Facebook and Instagram users are being targeted by cybercriminals promoting fake grants, particularly grants for COVID-19 relief. Recent grant scams reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) include requests for gift cards to “pay the taxes” if the grant is approved. 
  • The messages come from cloned accounts or hacked profiles of one of the user’s real Facebook or Instagram friends.  
  • Anyone receiving a message about a grant via Facebook, Instagram, phone, or text message should report it.  
  • If anyone wants to learn more about the Facebook grant scam or believes they are a victim, they should contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

While Facebook grant scams have been around for a while, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a spike in calls and live-chats around this type of scam, particularly a new version that targets people in need of money due to hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The grant scam is not just circulating on Facebook. ITRC advisors have also received cases from victims who claim they were targeted on other social media platforms, including Instagram, owned by Facebook. 

Who is the Target 

Facebook users appear to be the primary target. However, other social media platforms like Instagram are beginning to see similar scams. The BBB reports that scammers are also creating versions of the Facebook grant scam to target people by phone and text message.   

What is the Scam 

Cybercriminals attack social media accounts or create lookalike accounts to target friends, family members, or other people trusted by the impacted account owner. Once the account has been compromised, the criminals message the friend telling them about a government grant. 

Some of the recent grant names the ITRC has seen are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant, the RWCB grant, the Federal Government Empowerment grant and the Publisher’s Clearinghouse (PCH) Fee Government grant. The victims are then told to call a phone number about the grant and are asked to fill out a form that includes one’s Social Security number (SSN) and Driver’s License (DL) information before the grant is approved. The “friend” may claim they have already applied for the grant and received the funds. 

ITRC advisors say, right now, the most common reports of the Facebook grant scam evolve around phony grants for COVID-19 relief. The ITRC also continues to see Facebook grant scams where scammers ask for gift cards to “pay their taxes” associated with an approved grant. 

What They Want 

Scammers are looking to escape with the victim’s money, their personal information, or both to commit other identity crimes. 

How You Can Avoid Being Scammed 

  • If you receive a Facebook message from a friend regarding a grant opportunity, chances are it is a scam. Do not respond or provide any personal information. 
  • Inform your friend that their Facebook or Instagram account might be hacked or cloned. A big red flag is if you receive a new friend request from an existing friend and receive a direct or private message about a grant opportunity. 
  • Report the grant scam to FacebookInstagram, or other social media platforms where you receive the fraudulent grant message. Once you’ve reported the scam, delete the message. 
  • Never pay any money for a “free” government grant. A government entity will not ask you to pay a processing fee or taxes for a grant you were awarded, especially in a social media message. 

If you believe you are a victim of a Facebook grant scam or would like to learn more, contact the ITRC Center 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.   

Scammers are looking to scare people into falling for a COVID-19 contamination scam that contains a link that is designed to steal personal information.  Scammers are sending potential victims a text message informing them that someone they know tested positive for the coronavirus. However, it is just a trap.

Who Is It Targeting: Text message users

What Is It: A phishing scam based on fears of COVID-19

What Are They After: Text message users have reportedly received alerts that someone they know has tested positive for COVID-19. The message instructs them to self-isolate immediately, and then to click the link for further information and action. However, it is all part of a COVID-19 contamination scam. Police have warned that the link is likely designed to steal people’s personal data.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Stay informed; COVID-19 information is not yet being shared this way
  • Never click a link, download an attachment or open a file that you were not specifically expecting
  • Follow trusted sources like the CDC or your local EMA for accurate information on the virus

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or a COVID-19 contamination scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530 or 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 IDTheftCenter.org.


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CASHAPP SCAMS SEE A RISE DUE TO COVID-19

WHY HAVE YOU NOT RECEIVED YOUR STIMULUS CHECK PAYMENT YET?

CHOOSE STRONG SECURITY QUESTIONS/ANSWERS FOR ONLINE ACCOUNTS

With news of the economic hardship surrounding the containment of COVID-19, scammers are out in full force trying to get consumers to fall for CashApp scams by clicking on fraudulent and malicious links that could steal people’s money and identity.

Who Is It Targeting: Social media users, email recipients, text messaging platforms

What Is It: A phishing scam that claims to donate money to its victims

What Are They After: Like all newsworthy events, scammers have come up with a variety of ways to capitalize on the current concerns surrounding COVID-19 in order to steal money, identities or both. In this version, it is messages that offer the would-be victims’ free money via CashApp to help them through this difficult time with a link to participate. However, since it is a CashApp scam, the link is fraudulent and malicious and can lead to problems for anyone who follows it.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • No one will ever contact you out of nowhere to give you money
  • Never click a link, download a file or open an attachment that you were not expecting
  • Never input your login credentials for someone who requests them

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or a CashApp scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530, or 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 IDTheftCenter.org


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WHY HAVE YOU NOT RECEIVED YOUR STIMULUS CHECK PAYMENT YET?

CHOOSE STRONG SECURITY QUESTIONS/ANSWERS FOR ONLINE ACCOUNTS

FINANCIAL DATABASE LEAK LEADS TO OVER 500,000 DOCUMENTS EXPOSED ONLINE

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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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


As the U.S. continues to struggle to meet the need for coronavirus testing, some scammers are beginning to call people and offer them free tests. Consumers should be on the lookout for these coronavirus testing robocalls.

Who Is It Targeting: Phone users

What Is It: Robocalls that steal personal information

What Are They After: While robocalls can be a nuisance, scammers have found a new way to make people pay attention and play along. Anything that makes headline news is increasing scammers’ ability to lure people in. While hospitals around the country struggle to get enough COVID-19 testing supplies, these coronavirus testing robocalls offer the recipient a free test in their area. However, in order to find out where the nearest test location may be, consumers have to hand over personal information.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • For the most accurate COVID-19 information and testing options, follow your local news outlets or the CDC’s website
  • Never give out all of your information or any form of payment to someone who contacts you
  • Never confirm your identity for a caller because they should know who they have called

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or have received coronavirus testing robocalls, you can 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 CNN.com.


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Scammers are coming up with a new way to come after consumers’ money. They are posing as the World Health Organization as part of a World Health Organization grant scam.

Who Is It Targeting: Email, text and social media users

What Is It: Phishing scam that claims to offer grant money

What Are They After: Scammers will use any tactic to lure their victims into handing over their money, their identities or both. In this latest scam, phishing messages have been sent out that claim the World Health Organization is distributing grants worth more than $500,000 to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. Recipients of the World Health Organization grant scam are urged by scammers to apply for “free money.”

How Can You Avoid It:

  • No one will ever give you free money that you did not apply for
  • Messages like this one are only intended to cause harm
  • Never click a link, open an attachment or download a file unless you have verified its authenticity

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or a World Health Organization grant 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 IDTheftCenter.org


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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed until next summer 2021. However, scammers will not postpone their attempts to target consumers through a series of tactics, including ticket refund scams. People should be on the lookout for these schemes under the guise of helping people to switch their plans to suit the new 2021 date.

Who Is It Targeting: Olympic fans, travelers

What Is It: A series of scams focused around changing people’s reservations and getting refunded for 2020 Olympics expenses

What Are They After: Scammers will use this opportunity to profit off of victims’ franticness to get their money back. With such a sudden change of plans for this global event, now is the time for scammers to strike and prey on fans’ vulnerabilities. These tactics will include flight refund phishing attempts, hotel/Airbnb refund phishing attempts and ticket refund phishing attempts.

As noted in one article “There is a fine-print stipulation that a “public health emergency” does not leave the organizing committee liable for covering more than five million purchased tickets.”

How You Can Avoid It:

  • To avoid ticket refund scams you need to go directly to the source. Don’t attempt to get refunded through an email with an unverified sender.
  • Stay up-to-date. As of now, Tokyo 2020 organizers have said that they are “monitoring the situation” and no decisions about ticket refunds have been made yet.
  • Make yourself aware of the terms. Airbnb’s “extenuating circumstances policy” for guests who need to cancel currently only covers reservations from March 14- April 14. Many hotels are only allowing fee-free changes through April. Unless your flight is canceled, many airlines may only offer you a voucher if you want to change your flight

If you have any questions about a scam, call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live chat with one of our advisors.


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Be on the lookout for repairmen or sales reps that say they can upgrade your service. It is probably part of a popular home service upgrade scam.

Who Is It Targeting: Homeowners, renters

What Is It: Bait-and-switch scam that signs you up for new service

What Are They After: The home service upgrade scam has been around for a few years, but it is not going away anytime soon. A repair tech comes to your house to “upgrade” your systems, such as your home alarm, security cameras, Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets or other similar technology. When they leave, they have you sign a work order for the items that they swapped out.

However, it is not a work order; it is actually a contract for new service. They are not technicians from your current company, but rather from a competitor. You now have two monthly bills for a security system, internet router or other services, and have a hefty payout to cancel one of the contracts.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Never let anyone enter your home or conduct business on your property without seeing their identification and company ID
  • If someone surprises you by showing up unannounced, tell them to wait while you contact the company for verification

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or a home service upgrade scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from IDTheftCenter.org.


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