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Scammers could target your federal stimulus check; here's how to protect yourself

White House commits to sending stimulus checks within 2 weeks
Posted at 6:39 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 21:45:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Those stimulus checks from the federal government will be hitting bank accounts soon. And scammers are jumping in trying to get some of that money.

A viewer sent NewsChannel 5 Investigates an email saying she'd received a text message telling her she had to confirm her stimulus payment by going to a link they'd sent her and if she didn't do it now, she would not get her stimulus money. She wanted to know if that was a scam.

"That is a scam," Matthew Foster, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Nashville FBI Office.

Foster said sadly, there are a lot of crooks out there who want to get their hands on your check and that's one of the ways they're going to try to do it.

Scammers know that millions of Americans will soon be getting $1,200 from the federal government.

So expect to start getting calls, texts, and emails from people out to steal your stimulus money.

"Unfortunately people forget that the government is never ever going to ask you for information that way," Foster reminded.

To get your money, scammers first have to get your personal information. They may claim to be from the IRS or even your bank. But remember, you do not have to sign up or verify anything to receive your check. And this is especially important.

"You should never give personally identifiable information to a stranger who is text messaging you or emailing you and saying you have to register with the government to receive your check, you have to send us your Social Security number, your date of birth," Foster explained.

Also, be on the look out for emails supposedly from the federal government or IRS with links or attachments. Do not open the emails or attachments or click on any links.

As long as you filed taxes in the last two years, the federal government has everything it needs to send you your money. And if you got your last tax refund check through direct deposit, then that's how you'll get your stimulus check, no matter what any scammer tries to tell you.

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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.

Prevention

The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.