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

New Stimulus Payments Approved by Lawmakers 

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Stimulus Payment Scams 

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

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

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

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

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

The post was originally published on 12/22/20 and was updated on 3/10/21

  • Facebook users have recently been receiving messages about winning a “Christmas bonus.” These messages are scams. 
  • The messages come from cloned accounts of one of the user’s real Facebook friends.  
  • If anyone receives a message about a Christmas bonus on Facebook, they should ignore it. If it comes from the Facebook page or someone they know, they should alert them that their Facebook has been hacked or cloned. People should also consider reporting it to Facebook.  
  • If anyone wants to learn more about the scam or believes they are a victim, they should contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. 
One user alerted others and pointed to the ITRC for free assistance

Facebook users have been targeted by scammers offering a “Christmas bonus” or a “Christmas Benefit.” The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has spotted multiple Facebook Christmas bonus scam posts warning others of the scam.      

Who is the Target 

Facebook users; social media profiles

What is the Scam 

Example of Christmas bonus

Facebook users receive messages from individuals in their contact lists about winning a “Christmas bonus.” The messages are coming from the cloned accounts of friends, and they state that the individual has won a Facebook Christmas Bonus Giveaway. The targeted victim is then directed to contact a “Facebook Agent,” who will send a message that the winning is a random contest sponsored by Powerball.

The scammers will then ask for personal information to deliver the winnings. They may also ask for a small “transfer fee” to transfer the money into the victim’s account. Once the victim gives them their money or their personal information, the scammers disappear and do not award the “bonus.” The scams can use various tactics from scam to scam. However, they all are after the same thing. 

What They Want 

Personal information or direct payment 

How You Can Avoid Being Scammed 

  • If you receive a Facebook message stating that you have won something, chances are it is a scam. Do not respond.  
  • Delete the message and inform your friend that their Facebook account might be hacked or cloned. 
  • Report the Facebook Christmas bonus scam to Facebook 

If you believe you are a victim of the 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.  

The post was originally published on 12/1/15 and was updated on 12/14/20

  • 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.  

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

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

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

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

Watch for COVID-19 Holiday Scams   

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Holiday Scams 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Mystery Shopper Scams Resurface during COVID-19

  • 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.  

  • 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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Phishing attacks are nothing new. However, with scammers increasingly using sophisticated and new methods of harming recipients that experts are not as familiar with, being able to identify a phishing attack has never been more important. They can arrive as emails, texts, social media messages, phone calls or links to websites which appear to come from someone the victim knows or a legitimate business. It might look like a boss or co-worker, someone in an email contact list, a bank or a consumer’s favorite retailer.

Trusted brands are used to provide an air of credibility for scammers, who capitalize on the good reputation and relationships these brands have built. Some brands that have been used in phishing attacks to target consumers include Wells Fargo, Zoom, American Express, Apple and Microsoft. The companies being used are not involved in these scams; in many ways, they are victims of the scammer as much as the targeted consumer.

Every phishing attack has a different goal, depending on what kind of ruse they are using. Some use links or attachments to insert malicious code on the user’s device so they can collect more information. Others attempt to steal people’s personal and business usernames or passwords,  and others still try to get someone to click on a well-disguised link so they can divert them to a place where the user enters even more information that the fraudster will use to his or her benefit. While phishing attacks have different objectives, the attackers’ primary goal is to steal the information needed to scam individuals and businesses.

Fortunately, the age-old advice about avoiding a phishing attack still holds true. These are some things people should keep in mind when trying to identify a phishing attack.

Check the email address and URL to make sure it is not fake

Check unexpected inbound messages very carefully, paying special attention to the sender’s email or website address included in the message; they might notice something strange. If it says “Amaz0n.com,” for example, it is fake. If the website link is Citibank.card.shop.com (as an example), instead of the company’s actual web address, again, it is probably fake. Always go back to the source of the email (or in this case, the company that is being represented) and check for alerts about potential scams of which they are already aware. Many times, the company is aware and has posted information about the scam.

Received an unexpected email, text, social media message or phone call with a link or an attachment?  Consumers should reach out directly to the purported “source” of the communication to verify the validity of the message before clicking on a link or opening an attachment (as mentioned above). Clicking on a malicious link or opening a bogus attachment could lead to someone’s personal information being stolen or infect the device with malware.

Check the message for grammatical errors and awkward phrasing

Read unexpected messages carefully and with a critical eye. Grammatical errors and awkward language are two quick indicators that the email isn’t sent by the company indicated. In trying to identify a phishing attack, customers should remember that companies do not send out emails or other messages with glaring errors – in most cases, large, reputable companies have teams checking their communications for just those types of issues. Smaller businesses may have a looser communication style, but loyal customers will know if something is “off.”  If someone sees any strange mistakes, that is probably a sign it is a fake. In fact, sometimes spelling mistakes are intentional so that only more gullible recipients will interact.

Never trust the caller ID

Do not go by what the caller ID may say. It is easy for a scammer to change the phone number or screen name to say anything, like “IRS” or “County Sheriff’s Department.” If someone calls with an attempt to verify identity information or demands for some kind of payment, consumers should hang up immediately and initiate contact with the company directly using a verified phone number from a trusted source. Here’s a tip: people should put numbers in their contact list for companies that are used regularly – but name them something only they would identify. For example, list the bank as “Bank on 4th & Main St.” instead of by the bank’s name. That way, if there’s an inbound call from the number, the person receiving the call will know they can trust it.

Remember that in many cases, fraudsters are using websites that look like the companies they are pretending to be. A web search could also bring someone to a potential fraudulent site. People should always treat the search results with the same critical eye as they would these other steps.

Phishing attacks can be confusing because of how close to real they can look or sound. Scam websites, emails, phone calls and text messages that mimic trusted brands will continue. However, by implementing these tips to identify a phishing attack, it will help reduce the risk of falling for a phishing attack.

Anyone with additional questions about phishing attacks, or believes they have been a victim of one, can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. They can also use the live-chat feature on the website to get the help they need.


Scammers love using instances of crisis to take advantage of consumers and steal their money and personal information. That is exactly what they are doing after a Navy ship caught fire. As reported by Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)  partner, the Federal Trade Commission, fake crowdfunding pages have been created as part of a charitable giving scam, after a fire destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard and sailors lost all their possessions.

Who is it Targeting: Consumers wanting to help sailors in need after the USS Bonhomme Richard fire

What is it: A giving scam using crowdsource funding pages to take advantage of the crisis

What Are They After: The charitable giving scam employs fake crowdsource funding pages to steal people’s money instead of putting it towards the sailors impacted by the USS Bonhomme Richard fire. However, there is no way of knowing whether the money makes it to the sailors in need. Also, scammers can steal people’s personal information, like their credit card number or bank account information, to target them with future scams or, depending on what information the scammers get, commit identity theft and fraud.

How You Can Avoid It: Don’t rely on crowdsource funding pages to make legitimate donations. Crowdsource funding pages make it impossible to know whether the donations make it to the recipient. Always do research and only donate to known and trustworthy charities. Learn more about how to check out a charity before giving at https://www.ftc.gov/charity.

If people have questions regarding charitable giving scams, they are encouraged to contact the ITRC through the website to live-chat with an expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


Read more about charity scams in our related blogs…

Looking to Give During COVID-19? Don’t Fall for a Charitable Giving Scam

Veterans Charity Scam

COVID-19 Catfishing Scams Make a Rebound Amid Pandemic