No one is as excited as you are about the $2 trillion stimulus package, well except the hackers, data scammer, and fraudsters. They are thrilled! Never has there been such an opportunity to steal more money and never has it been easier!! While the Stimulus package is really an amazing piece of bi-partisanship by the government and has the potential to really help many individuals and businesses, the sad reality is much of it will go to the hackers and scammers as many of us are just too oblivious, lazy, or just plain careless to protect ourselves. The people who really need help, the small businesses that are desperate to support their employees and the businesses that make our lives so much better will lose much of the money that was meant to help them survive these incredibly difficult times.
How is it going to happen? Probably one of the first and most common methods will be by you getting a phone call from the IRS (or other government organizations) claiming they need to verify some information to ensure that you get your stimulus money as soon as possible. And if you provide that information right away, they can ensure you have the money in your bank account within a couple of days. But first, they need to verify your account number, Social Security number, passcode, etc. If you don’t verify the information right then, it might be months before you get your check, or maybe never.
The first thing they are doing is trying to establish creditability with you… they are not asking for your bank account number or Social Security number but they are asking you to verify it so it seems like they already have it. Second, they are trying to create a sense of urgency with you so you relax your defenses as you want to make sure you get your money as quickly as possible. DON’T DO IT!!
The IRS will never call you and ask for information! Never, never, never!! They will send you a letter and you can call them with the requested information on a phone number that you can find on their website.
Another method the hackers and scammers will use is to send you a phishing email that looks like it is from a legitimate government agency, again like the IRS or maybe Social Security. They are not asking for your bank account number or social security number, but they are asking you to verify it, so it seems like they already have it. Again, they are trying to create a sense of urgency, so you relax your defenses as you want to make sure you get your money as quickly as possible. Clicking on the link will take you to a website that looks very official and will take you through a process to collect your private information.
By the way, the phishing method is one of the most common methods that hackers have used to gain access to government databases, large firm’s financial data as well. individual banking information. Again, DON’T DO IT!! Do not click on a link embedded in an email that you cannot verify. Simply call the agency in question and make sure you are dealing with a legitimate representative of that agency.
Third, the IRS will soon have a new website page where you will be able to update your IRS records to include your banking deposit information. This is another very susceptible target for data thieves. They could easily send you an email with a link to a webpage that could look like a very legitimate IRS website page but if you closely look at the sender email address, you will see it is not an IRS.GOV email and the website will not be a .GOV website. BE CAREFUL! Only access the IRS website by going to IRS.GOV and searching where to update your information… DO NOT CLICK on the link in an email!
Remember, by protecting yourself, you are protecting all of us! Let’s make sure to get the stimulus money to where it is needed… and not in the data thieves’ hands!