The myriad of ways in which the COVID-19 virus is affecting individuals in our communities makes my head spin. On one hand, we have a wave of volunteers—new and existing—who have shouldered the burden of feeding the vulnerable. On the other hand, there are people who need the most basic things—diapers, formula, food, cash. In between all that, there is grief, illness, celebration, boredom, and anxiety. All of it feels out of proportion.
While many of us celebrate the ways in which communities have coalesced to serve, there are those who look for the opportunities to take advantage of the vulnerable.
Folks are starting to receive stimulus checks and tax refunds. If you already have a 2018 or 2019 federal tax return on file and are eligible for a stimulus payment under the CARES Act, the IRS will deposit your payment directly into the bank account you listed on your return.
There are creative criminals ready to take that money. This is from the AARP website—“Signs a swindler wants your cash” https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2020/stimulus-checks-scams.html:
- The caller or emailer uses the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment.” The term that government officials are using is “economic-impact payment.”
- You’re asked to sign your check over to the caller.
- You receive an email, text or social media message saying that you need to verify your personal and/or banking information to speed up your stimulus payment.
- The individual offers to get you your payment faster.
- You receive a fake check, and then the sender tells you to call a number to verify your personal information in order to cash it.
You should report these attempts. If someone sends you an email, or contacts you by phone, send the information to email@example.com.
The Consumer Protection Bureau contains some guidance about scams: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/beware-coronavirus-related-scams/. These warnings go into a little more detail about how criminals will try to sell virus testing kits, etc. The page also contains links to other valid websites containing a variety of information. It’s a good site for some general, reliable information.
The “in” phrase these days is “stay safe.” Unfortunately, that involves more than just washing your hands and staying at home. It requires that we are vigilant, and that our sources of information are accurate and up-to-date.
We are all doing what we can to flatten the curve. While we are at it, let’s flatten those who are trying to use the current situation to their criminal advantage.
Vicki Coyle, CEO