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Covid Cases May Be Declining, but Related Scams Are Spiking

Some popular scams try to collect personal ID information, or divert stimulus money. Here's what to watch for.

Covid cases may be going down, but phone-related scams capitalizing on the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent government aid has skyrocketed in recent weeks.

Stimulus check scams have doubled in each of the last two months according to an analysis of over 13 billion calls per month by Hiya, a company that provides call protection, identification and analytics services. More than 1.1 million stimulus check scam calls have been made so far in June. In fact, the first week of June was the worst yet, with an increase of 150%. Stimulus check scam calls have nearly doubled in 2021 compared to 2020.

As with any scam plan, there are variations to the type of scam consumers are being hit with. The most popular scam attempts to steal the victim’s personal identifiable information by claiming the person must verify their personal information to receive their stimulus check. Scammers are also requesting victims’ banking information and promising the funds can be directly deposited that day.

Consumers also need to be aware of fake companies and fake government agencies offering bogus loan advances or loan forgiveness if the targeted individual will forfeit their stimulus check.

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Texas, California, and Florida top the list of targeted states. But no matter where you live, there are some steps you can take to help mitigate your risk of getting scammed.

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For starters, if you do not recognize the phone number do not answer the call. If it is something important or legitimate the caller will leave a voice message. And if you see a missed call, do not return the call. There is no circumstance in which someone from the federal government will call asking for your bank account details, your Social Security number or any personal or financial information.

There are ways you can take control of how many scammers are able to contact you. Be sure to enable your carrier’s call protection system. For example, AT&T  (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report offers Call Protect. You can also install a protection app such as Hiya. If you want to also limit how many telemarketers are able to get to you, it doesn’t hurt to register with the government’s Do Not Call registry.

Whenever you mix a crisis with emotions and money, scammers and fraudsters will find a way to hook you in. And these crooks can come across very legitimate. The truth is, they keep doing it because unknowing victims get taken in. In the last 14 months alone spam and fraudulent calls have increased by 187%. Victims lost an average of $182 to scam calls in 2020, with 7% of people reporting a loss of over $1,000, according to Hiya’s research. If you have trusting elderly parents, make sure to have a conversation with them about potential scammers and best practices.