Stimulus Scams On the Rise: FinCEN

From Birch Gold Group

As the Economic Impact Payments (EIP) roll out, fraudsters and scammers are looking to cash in on citizens’ relief checks in whichever way possible. The latest report by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) once again urged Americans to be wary of how they manage their personal information and finances, along with outlining some of the most common stimulus-related frauds currently sweeping the nation.

Stimulus check scams

The rush to distribute the checks, as well as citizens’ own impatience to receive them, has made room for plenty of ill practices. These include using EIP as bait for existing financial crimes, such as identity and credit card theft. As reports have shown, bad actors will reach out to individuals with claims of being a government representative and state that they require some form of verification before a check is supposedly issued.

The victim is directed to a website or a phone number where they are asked to part with their personal info, which often includes details that allow for unauthorized access of the target’s bank accounts.

Various phishing schemes involving keywords pertaining to the crisis or the relief programs are also in full swing, and the attackers hope to obtain account numbers and passwords along with data that can be used to commit fraud at a later date.

Stimulus check theft

There are also more direct defrauding methods, such as perpetrators attempting to deposit an altered EIP check in digital form. Here, scammers will change one or more parts of the check, such as the recipient’s name, address or amount in hopes that an oversight will be made. FinCEN noted that these cases can also include physical alteration of the check.

Even more direct means are being used, such as betting on the U.S. Postal Service’s overload to outright steal a check that is sent to someone via mail.

Other examples include formal requests for EIP checks for someone who isn’t eligible to receive them, as well as requesting them on behalf of another person. The latter can be especially problematic if the person in question unknowingly shared their details with the scammers beforehand, whether by talking to someone posing as a government official or having their devices infected by malware.

FinCEN said that scammers might file a request for an EIP check using someone else’s name by submitting partial information and filling the blanks with fake details.

But it’s not just scammers we have to look out for… FinCEN also highlighted a curious, but concerning case of private companies with legitimate control of a person’s finances inappropriately seizing the recipient’s stimulus checks without their knowledge or approval and refusing to release them, most often as part of a debt collection scheme.

If you’ve been the victim of a financial scam or fraud, FinCEN recommends contacting your local, state, or federal law enforcement officers to report the crime.

Knowing what to look out for is key to defending against most scams. To help you detect and avoid financial scams, Birch Gold Group has pulled together an extensive resource guide that is now available on our website. The Birch Gold Group Scam Protection Resource Guide helps you identify warning signs and provides you with tips on how to avoid fraud.

2021, Featured