Government Relief Checks and Texts to Answer Questions Trigger Latest Coronavirus Scams
Pensacola, Fla. (March 30, 2020)
– The proposed federal stimulus package announced last week includes sending every American a check to offset lost income from the coronavirus crisis. Scammers wasted no time in taking advantage of this news! BBB is already getting reports on BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) about government imposters calling about the checks. Watch out for these phony government grants that ask for personal and 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.”
There are also reports coming in from consumers receiving a text directing them to a URL (included in the email) to take answer questions. The message tells you that you must take a “mandatory online COVID-19 test” and has a link to a website. But there is no online test for coronavirus.
These are far from the only coronavirus text message scams (often known as “smishing” for SMS phishing). BBB has also gotten reports of texts urging recipients to complete “the census” or fill out an online application in order to receive their stimulus check.
No matter what the message, don’t click! In addition to taking your money, these sites can also download malware to your device and use your information for identity theft.
Tips to Spot a COVID-19 Grant Scam:
For More Information:
- 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.
- Check for look-a-likes. Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists. Find contact info on your own and call them to be sure the person you’ve heard from is legitimate.
- Don’t assume an offer in a social media message is from a real friend. It’s easy for scammers to impersonate real people on social media. Call your friend to verify they contacted you (and share this Scam Alert with them if they are spreading false information).
NOTE: BBB continues to monitor changes in the marketplace in reaction to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Please go to BBB.org/coronavirus for the latest information.
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Tammy Ward, Communications Director
- Read more about government grant scams in this BBB tip. For more information about scams in the wake of coronavirus, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.
- If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.
Better Business Bureau Serving Northwest Florida
912 E. Gadsden St.
Pensacola, FL 32501
bbb.org Start With Trust®