Be cautious of stimulus payment scams

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Scammers are waiting in the wings to take advantage of consumers looking for help from the American Rescue Plan. The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) is warning consumers to be cautious of stimulus payment scams as money is being sent out. Here are a few tips to help consumers avoid fraudsters looking to profit from the pandemic:

You NEVER have to pay up-front for your stimulus money. No government agency is going to ask you to pay up-front fees to receive your stimulus payment. If someone contacts you saying they are from a government agency, hang up. It’s a scam. Consumers should also beware of promises to get you the money now; there is no way to speed up when stimulus money gets to you.

No one will contact you asking for private information. Scammers often pose as government agencies to gain your trust. Lookout for calls and messages pretending to be from well-known organizations like the IRS. Fraudsters may try to get you to verify information like your bank account number, Social Security number or credit card information. Never give private information to someone who contacts you out-of-the-blue. Instead, hang up or delete the message and directly contact that business/agency.

No legitimate business/agency will ask for unusual forms of payment. Unusual forms of payment include gift card, cryptocurrency or wire transfer. Scammers like these forms of payment because they are difficult to trace and you’ll likely never see that money again. No matter why the person says they need it, this a big scam red flag.
Watch out for phishing emails or texts. Your inbox may be getting messages from impostors acting like trustworthy organizations. Remember, don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. Clicking on links in these messages could install malware or other dangerous programs on your computer/digital device. Guard against these scammers by keeping your computer software updated, using security software, changing your passwords at least every three months and using multi-factor authentication.
Think your personal information has fallen into the wrong hands? Check your credit reports for any suspicious activity. It was just announced that the three major credit reporting agencies extended their offer of one free credit report every week until April 20, 2022. To get your free credit reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com.

Consumers are encouraged to report scams and identity theft to our Identity Theft Unit. Call (844) TELL DCA (835-5322) or fill out a Scam Report form by visiting our website and clicking on the How Do I… button, then Report a Scam.

About SCDCA

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs aims to protect consumers from inequities in the marketplace through advocacy, complaint mediation, enforcement and education. To file a complaint or get information on consumer issues, visit www.consumer.sc.gov or call toll-free, 1 (800) 922-1594.