MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Scammers have wasted no time taking advantage of the proposed federal stimulus package President Trump announced this week. The package includes sending every American a check to offset lost income from the coronavirus crisis.
The BBB is getting reports on its BBB Scam Tracker about government imposters calling about checks. They warn to watch out for phony government grants that ask for personal banking information.
How the Scam Works: You receive a message or see a social media post claiming that you qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant. With the news stories about the proposed stimulus plan, you figure it must be true. You click the link and are taken to what seems to be an official website asking you to enter your personal information and/or banking details. It’s “necessary” to verify your identity and process your grant.
As always, there are several versions of this con. BBB Scam Tracker has received reports of people contacted through text message, social media posts and messages, and phone calls. One variation is a Facebook post telling seniors about a special grant to help pay medical bills. The link leads to a website claiming to be a government agency called the “U.S. Emergency Grants Federation” (phony, of course). The site requests your Social Security number under the guise of needing to verify your eligibility. In other versions, scammers claim that you can get additional money – up to $150K in one case – or even receive your funds immediately. All you need to do is share personal details and pay a small “processing fee.”
No matter what the message, don’t click! In addition to taking your money, these sites also can also download malware to your device and use your information for identity theft.
Remember, government agencies do not communicate through social media avenues like Facebook. So, be wary of unsolicited messages. Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it is not really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is Grants.gov.
Read more about government grant scams in this BBB tip. For more information about scams in the wake of coronavirus, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.