For the past week, U.S. lawmakers have been discussing proposed stimulus checks to help the country through this coronavirus-induced economic crisis. The $2 trillion stimulus package that will offer help to American citizens affected by the Coronavirus outbreak unanimously passed in the Senate this Wednesday and was sent to the President for signing.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has already issued a warning for citizens to keep an eye out for government grant scam.
What should you expect?
Fraudsters posing as government officials may contact you via telephone, email or social media posts and messages, claiming you can apply for a free grant with 100% guaranteed acceptance. If you fall for their ruse, you are asked to submit a one-time processing fee. The punchline: you’ll never see a dime of the so-called grant money they promised.
Fake checks and grant scams are old news in the swindling business. What make this particular scam stand out is that fraudsters started deploying the scheme before the newly proposed legislation became a reality.
The BBB Scam Tracker was already hit by complaints from the community.
“I received a text message stating “Government Relief Available” with a link to click. The link is tCXQ[.]site/3VeoS and had MSG:3VeoS at the bottom of the message. I knew this had to be a scam. I did not click the link because I had seen on Facebook about some scam texts being sent out. I hope these people are caught and prosecuted for trying to take advantage of people in a time of struggle”, one user described on March 25.
An earlier recipient posted a similar message on March 21, stating “A Facebook Messenger message from a personal friend started informing me about a government grant for retired people that sounded great ’cause she got her money within three weeks. I contacted the FGG & WHO agent that she worked with. Through text messages she helped me fill out a form over my cell phone which included my(winner’s as they put it) full name and address my deceased parents’ names, occupation status, age, marriage status, husband’s name, cell phone number & provider, monthly amount from Social Security and credit score and for $1,000 filing fee in a gift card I would receive $100,000 as a grant.”
Another scam description from Mar 25, says “Texted saying click here for government relief. Could be covid19 related.”
According to a separate report from March 24, “Attorney Robert Menendez Incharge 2020 contacted me through a friends Instagram account. He asked for the following information.
Full name; Mother Name; Address; Male/Female; state; married/single; cell no; age; occupation; e-mail; monthly income; attached I.D. image; do you have credit cards; what’s your credit score; etc.”
Tips to help you spot the emerging COVID-19 Grant Scam
• Understand that your government will not communicate with you directly through social media messages on Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp.
• Do not pay any money for a free government grant. If you have to pay to claim it – you can’t really call it free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay any processing fees.
• Do your research and check if the agency contacting you exists. Contact the organization and ask if the message you received is legitimate. Cyber criminals often spoof phone numbers or email addresses, making it appear that you’re contacted by the real person.
• Scammers often impersonate real people on social media, so be wary of messages with grant-related content you receive from ‘your friend’. You can call your friend to verify if he sent the message.