HOUSTON - Many scammers are trying to steal your stimulus check and unemployment benefits, or maybe they already have. In fact, the Identity Theft Resource Center says they're seeing an increase in all kinds of COVID-19 related scams.
"These are people that need these dollars to pay rent, to buy food, to keep the lights on," said Eva Velasquez, President of the ID Theft Resource Center, of the growing number of scam vicitms they're seeing.
She says thieves are taking stimulus checks, tax refunds, and unemployment benefits by filing for them with information they're stealing from victims.
"They either went to file their taxes or were expecting their stimulus check, and they find out that not only had a fraudulent tax return been filed in their name, but the thief has also now absconded with their stimulus payment," said Velasquez.
She says make sure you don't respond to emails, texts or phone calls that say they're from financial institutions, such as the IRS, Social Security, or your bank. Only reach out to these places through their official phone numbers or websites.
"Contact your bank in the normal way you would, whether it's calling the number on the back of your card or maybe you have an app or engage in online backing, whatever the normal way would be," said Velasquez.
The Center says because so many people are working from home during stay-home orders, many computers are vulnerable to malware and viruses. Make sure you're adding anti-virus and security software to your computer.
"It's simple things, like not oversharing, making sure you're protecting the systems you use. This is really critical for folks working remotely right now. Have you done the updates and the patching on your device?" she asks.
The Center is also seeing many work-at-home job scams and fake COVID-19 tests or treatments.
"They are capitalizing on our fear of our health and the pandemic. So there are a lot of phony cure sites, fake testing sites, a lot of misinformation, trying to get people to part with not only their identity and critical information but also their financial information."
If you think you've been scammed, you can reach out to the ID Theft Resource Center.
They've compiled resources on COVID-19-related scams here.
The Federal Trade Commission also has information on imposter scams here.