Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued a consumer alert urging Virginians to be wary of scammers taking advantage of the coming $600 federal relief payments to get personal or bank information to steal your money.
Scammers often use the issuance of payments from the government as an opportunity to try to take advantage of Virginians by using deceitful, high-pressure calls, emails, or texts that trick people into compromising their personal information or losing their money.
“This is a moment when we should all be coming together to support one another, but unfortunately we know that scammers and criminals often view payments like the $600 economic assistance as an opportunity to line their own pockets,” said Herring. “Just remember that no action should be required on your part in order to receive the assistance. It should either be directly deposited into your bank account, or mailed directly to your house. If you get a call, email, text, or other communication asking for personal or bank account information, hang up, delete the message, and don’t provide any information because it’s probably a scam.”
Herring is reminding all Virginians that if they receive an email, text or phone call about these stimulus checks from someone purporting to be with the government to not give them personal information. These phishing scams will likely ask for things like bank account information under the guise of direct depositing money from the stimulus package into your bank account. Also, remember that the government will not ask you to pay any money up front to get a stimulus check. So, if someone asks you to pay something, it’s a scam.
Below are some additional tips to avoid becoming a victim of a government imposter scam:
*Don’t give the caller any of your financial or other personal information – Never give out or confirm financial or other sensitive information, including your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you know exactly who you’re dealing with. Scammers can use your information to commit identity theft. If you get a call about a debt that may be legitimate — but you think the collector may not be — contact the company to which the caller claims you owe money to inquire about the call.
* Don’t trust a name or number – Scammers use official-sounding names, titles, and organizations to make you trust them. To make the call seem legitimate, scammers also use internet technology to disguise their area code or generate a fake name on caller ID. So even though it may look like they’re calling locally or somewhere in the United States, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
* Never wire money or send cash or a pre-paid card – These transactions are just like sending someone cash! Once your money is gone, you can’t trace it or get it back.
* Join the National Do Not Call Registry and don’t answer numbers you don’t know – This won’t stop scammers from calling but it should make you skeptical of calls you get from out of the blue. Most legitimate sales people generally honor the Do Not Call list. Scammers ignore it. Putting your number on the list helps to “screen” your calls for legitimacy and reduce the number of legitimate telemarketing calls you get.
If you think you have been a victim of a scam, contact Herring’s Consumer Protection Section:
– By phone: 1 (800) 552-9963
– By email: email@example.com
– Online complaint form
– Online contact form
Additionally, economic assistance payments should be exempt from garnishment and seizure by debt collectors and creditors under a new law from Herring and Del. Hala Ayala, who proposed the new law after the initial round of $1,200 assistance payments from the CARES Act were left vulnerable to seizure.