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Stimulus Scams Are Spiking, Consumer Protection Experts Say

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Some people are getting unemployment benefits through the state while others are getting paid through the PPP. Then there’s the EIP, where citizens and resident aliens get either $1,200 or $2,400 with varying degrees of eligibility depending on what they make.

Some will get paper checks. Others — direct deposits. Some Americans will receive prepaid debits cards that won’t even say they’re from the IRS. Plus, the system is backlogged, so you can expect yours in either days, weeks, or even months.

It’s a lot to keep up with.

The confusion has Kathy Stokes busy. She’s AARP’s Director of Fraud Prevention Programs, and she said fraud around stimulus payments is rampant.

Stimulus check

She said they’ve seen scammers sending texts pretending to be from the bank, calling pretending to be from the IRS, or canvassing the country with bogus checks, all in an effort to steal your identity, and your money.

“That’s a scammers dream to be able to send you a check that you think is legitimate and then they say, ‘Oh, well, we overpaid you. So you know, just send us back what we overpaid.’” Stokes said.

An example of a bogus text

In particular, as KSL reported last week, the AARP has concerns about stimulus money being sent out by the IRS on prepaid debit cards that need to be activated and are coming from a Nebraska bank called Metabank, rather than the U.S. Treasury Department.

“If you get a call, an email, a text that says they’re with that bank or they’re there with the Internal Revenue Service, and they just want to make sure you received that card so share the pin with me, share the debit card number with me, share your social security number with me, that’s gonna be a scam. Just ignore any follow-up, and just do try to stay safe,” Stokes said.

In the state of Utah, consumer protection leaders said they have also seen a spike in fraud since the COVID pandemic hit. Sadly, if you’re a victim, you’ll likely never see justice, according to Utah Division of Consumer Protection Director Daniel O’Bannon.

“These are true scams and true scammers,” O’Bannon said. “These are people who are smart enough to know how to make themselves anonymous and to make it impossible for investigators to find them. We’re seeing those types of complaints.”

O’Bannon said the reality is with scams of this nature, they can’t find the people and stop them.

“They’re often overseas. They’re anonymizing using the internet. We can’t make it stop. The way to make it stop is for people not to fall for the scams,” he said.

More information on COVID-19 scams can be found here.

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