Stimulus Check Scam: Newest COVID-19 Target

A stimulus check scam may be coming to an inbox near you.

These government issued checks are the latest playground for cybercriminals, and your employees need to remain on high alert to protect themselves and your business.

Iconic IT is keeping you ahead of the curve by bringing you the latest trends in cybersecurity threats during this time of uncertainty. Today’s trending cyberthreat: bad actors targeting your “stimulus checks.”

A Quick Background

COVID-19 has affected many businesses in many ways. From delayed shipments to being forced to temporarily close doors, organizations across the globe are feeling the strain. This is translating down to employees who are having hours cut or shifts cancelled altogether.

As Iconic IT CEO Mike Fowler explains,

“Small businesses will be the hardest hit. No work means no salaries paid, and no salaries paid means no income for employees.” 

The government has been trying to find ways to alleviate the financial strain on both businesses and US workers. One thing currently being discussed is a check, or potentially a series of checks, intended to put a little more money in pockets in a time of uncertainty.

Stimulus Checks Are Still Being Discussed

At the time of this update (3/23/20), no agreement has been reached regarding stimulus checks. There has been no plan reached on Capitol Hill regarding who would receive them, how much these stimulus checks would be, what business verticals or size would qualify, and what other requirements must be met for individuals or businesses to be eligible.

The plan, while being actively debated, has not reached any solid footing.

The Stimulus Check Scam Started on Social Media

Keyboard warriors are fueling the speculation and misinformation surrounding this process. The stimulus checks scam started with people that spread unconfirmed information on social media outlets and those who shared the “information.”

This became a quick, easy way for scammers to spread confusion and profit from it.

What Does a Stimulus Check Scam Look Like?

As with any phishing attempt, this scam originates from hackers spreading a wide net to see who they can catch.

The stimulus check scam will involve hackers pretending to be from the government.

  1. You may be prompted to add bank account numbers for “direct deposit” or mailing of your check.
  2. You may be urged to click a link to see if you qualify for a stimulus check
  3. You may be asked to provide prior year tax returns to see how much you qualify for
  4. Hackers may pretend to be from your financial or HR department and request:
  5. Social security number
  6. Bank account number
  7. Log-in information
  8. Other highly sensitive personal or business-related information
  9. Information about your clients and customers to “authorize” their payments
  • Social security number
  • Bank account number
  • Log-in information
  • Other highly sensitive personal or business-related information
  • Information about your clients and customers to “authorize” their payments

One such scam has targeted emails in Rhode Island. Email users are receiving communications with the subject line, “COVID-19 Pandemic Stimulus Package.” When opened, the email asked users for personal information in order to have their check issued.

Emails Are Prime Targets

The easiest way for hackers to get the information is to send phishing emails. These emails are often urgent in nature, encouraging the victim to act quickly or else face consequences of some kind:

  • Loss of income
  • Missing out on a “great deal”
  • Job-related repercussions in the case of targeted employees

Per a recent study quoted by the Business Insider:

“About half of people who were contacted by scammers did not engage, detecting the fraud immediately. Meanwhile, 30% of respondents engaged and did not lose money, while 23% engaged and lost money to a scammer.”

Beware Phone Calls and Texts: Other Modes of a Stimulus Check Scam

If anyone attempts to call or text you about your funds, it is a stimulus check scam. Since there is no plan in place, these calls are attempts to gain your financial information.

Avoid any phone call or text that urges you to click for information or provide your credentials in any way

The Take-Away About Stimulus Check Scams

Trending cyberthreats seem to be focusing on COVID-19 fears and misinformation. Remember that currently, there is no plan actively in place for stimulus checks. Once the plan is implemented, there will be communications from the government with instructions on how you can receive yours.

Follow trusted news sources and press briefings regarding the stimulus checks once a plan has been released.

In the meantime, be wary of:

  • Any official-looking notification that asks you to open a link
  • Any email requesting your log-in information
  • Any email that requests your banking information
  • Emails with grammatical errors or misspellings
  • Spoof governmental email sites that mirror existing ones but have different domain name extensions
  • Any email or phone call requesting “processing payment” to release the stimulus check
  • “Too good to be true” offers, such as payments that seem higher than you would expect (the current amounts being discussed are in the $1,000 to $1500 range for individuals)
  • Clicking on social media links promising information about stimulus checks

Additionally, remember:

  • There is no cure for COVID-19
  • There is no vaccine for COVID-19
  • Governmental organizations will not email you requesting logins or providing attachments
  • Access information directly from official sources:

CDC

World Health Organization

National Institute of Health

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

With many employees working remotely during this time, your control of the sites they access is far more limited than when they were working on-site. Between lax security practices and using personal devices for work, your network security will be threatened.

It’s imperative you reinforce to your employees that they must operate safely when accessing your network from home.

Iconic IT Has Free Resources to Keep Your Business Prepared

Iconic IT has put our expertise to work for you, gathering essential resources for your business. All are free to use, download, and forward to your employees.

Iconic IT will continue to keep you ahead of trending threats, like stimulus check scams, as well as help you stay connected and efficient throughout this pandemic.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Iconic IT is available throughout this crisis to help you in any way we can.

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