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The new pandemic relief bill includes stimulus checks (or direct deposit) for most Americans, and scammers are already taking advantage of the news.

BBB is getting reports of con artists claiming that you need to either pay for your stimulus check or provide personal information to receive it. Watch out for scam calls as this new government initiative rolls out.

How the scam works

As always, there are several versions of this con. BBB Scam Tracker has received reports from people contacted through text message, email, and phone calls about the new COVID-19 stimulus checks.

According to BBB Scam Tracker reports, watch out for email or text messages instructing you to click a link to “request benefit payments.” The link will take you to an application, which prompts you to enter information in order to “make sure you are getting all the payments owed to you.” Of course, this “application” is really a way to phish for personal details and opens you up to risk of identity theft.

In a phone variation, the scammer pretends to be calling from a government agency. The con artist insists you need to pay money — or “confirm” your personal information — before you can receive your stimulus check. Other times, scammers claim that you can get additional money or even receive your funds immediately. All you need to do is pay a small “processing fee” through a pre-paid debit card.

Tips to spot a government imposter scam

  • Stay calm. If you receive any of these impostor calls, resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is. Scammers try to get you to act before you have a chance to think.
  • Don’t reply directly. Don’t respond to the call, text, or email. If you think the message may be real, find the government agencies’ contact information on their website and contact them directly.
  • Check for look-alikes. Be sure to do your research and see if the government agency or organization actually exists. Scammers often make up names of agencies and/or grants.
  • Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant or program. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it is not really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is Grants.gov.

For more information

Read more about government grant scams at bbb.org/scamtips. For more information about scams in the wake of coronavirus, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.

Better Business Bureau serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices. Visit bbb.org/canton or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips and more.