There’s always someone looking to get over on others. And it appears that the $2 trillion bill put in place for the economic relief of those impacted by COVID-19 set off a nationwide alarm for stimulus check scams. Since April, the Federal Trade Commission has reported that the number of fraud claims has quadrupled since April.
To date, more than 80 million Americans have received funds from the stimulus plan through direct deposits into their bank accounts. Millions more are waiting for a check in the mail. And then there are those who have had their money stolen by cybercriminals who have digitally intercepted their funds on the internet.
A recent article by The New York Times shares the stories of people who have fallen victim to unemployment benefit fraud and those who have had their stimulus funds stolen online. And unfortunately, they are horror stories of how working-class Americans who are in desperate need of financial assistance had their Social Security and other personal data stolen and sold on dark web stores. With the government creating online portals for people to input their personal information to check the status of when they will receive their funds, cybercriminals have compromised the sites by hacking them.
From the NY Times:
Over the last month, 4,305 malicious website domains were set up to take advantage of people looking for new forms of government support, according to the security firm Check Point. The fake sites, with names like whereismystimulus and 2020reliefprogram, generally ask people to input their personal data with the promise that they can get information about their checks. But hackers then use the data against those who fall for the trick.
Many Americans have received emails, phone calls, and have seen countless phony informational posts on social media from fraudsters. The Times also reported that fraudsters, “distribute malware and get people to divulge their bank information and other data, which can then be used to defraud the same people.” And Google said it intercepted 18 million such emails last week.
As Americans wait anxiously to receive funds, the Secret Service and the Treasury Department are now warning people about counterfeit U.S. Treasury checks. Americans applying for unemployment are also being cautioned to be attentive about the information that they share online when applying as fraudsters are intercepting data from unemployment benefit sites.