Scammers Pretend To Be IRS To Steal Federal Stimulus Checks

D'Ann Lawrence White

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL — Stimulus checks meant to help those who are cash-strapped or without employment during the coronavirus pandemic are attracting scammers.

In a public service announcement released Friday, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister advised residents to be on the lookout for unsolicited texts, emails or phone calls from criminals hoping to steal their money.

"It's unfortunate that during a global pandemic there are still people out there looking to prey on others," said Chronister in the video message. "Everyone is vulnerable to scams during these troubled economic times."

For residents to avoid being taken advantage of, Chronister advises not to click on links sent via email or text claiming to provide an update on the status of stimulus checks. Scammers will often pretend to be with the IRS, so people should also be leery of giving their financial information or Social Security number over the phone or electronically.

"Remember, no government agency will ever ask you to pay money to get your stimulus check faster," said Chronister. "Following these tips will help keep you and your money safe."

As part of the CARES Act, millions of American households will receive up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. To learn more about the economic impact payments, click here.

Sheriff Chad Chronister and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office want to remind people about the potential for cyber attackers who take advantage of those who fear the coronavirus.

Last month, Chronister warned residents about criminals attempting to take advantage of the coronavirus by launching phishing attacks that attempt to get residents to click on malicious links or open infected email attachments.

Here are some of the most common indicators that a phone call, text or email is most likely a scam or attack:

  • Any messages that communicates a tremendous sense of urgency. The bad guys are trying to rush you into making a mistake.
  • Any message that pressures you into bypassing or ignoring your company's security policies and procedures.
  • Any message that promotes miracle cures, such as vaccines or medicine that will protect you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be very suspicious of any phone call or message that pretends to be an official or government organization urging you to take immediate action.

"Please keep in mind that coronavirus scams and attacks can happen at work or at home, via email, text messaging or even over the phone," said Chronister. "Don’t fall victim to bad guys playing on your emotions."

If anyone believes they are the victim of a cyberattack, reach out to the Florida Office of the Attorney General.

This article originally appeared on the Tampa Patch