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PUBLIC SERVICE NOTICE
Following passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March, the IRS delivered Economic Impact Payments (EIP) to approximately 160 million taxpayers through direct deposit or physical Treasury checks. The passage of the CARES Act also coincided with massive unemployment, swelling to a civilian unemployment rate of almost 15%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Subsequently, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Office of Investigations found criminals engaged in various scams and schemes in attempts to intercept EIPs, and/or steal sensitive taxpayer information.
TIGTA warned taxpayers about fraudulent web pages and/or receiving phishing emails, text messages, or social media-based communications asking for sensitive personal information from taxpayers.
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, also unveiled the top six coronavirus stimulus check scams:
- Fake checks: Scammers sent out phony stimulus checks in the mail to their victims, who deposited them. Then the criminals persuaded victims to send some of the money back, often by wire transfer or gift cards;
- Social media messages: The Better Business Bureau found a rising number of scams offering to pay medical bills for seniors, give out emergency grants, or deliver additional money. Each takes the individual to a spoofed website to steal valuable information;
- Fake Social Security number requests: According to the AARP, the Social Security Administration received over 450,000 complaints last year of scammers asking for SSNs. This complaint hotline no doubt got a workout during this pandemic;
- Small Business Administration loan scams: Government officials alerted the public about potential fraud schemes related to economic stimulus programs provided by the SBA to assist small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency advised everyone to watch out for phishing emails or other scams related to economic relief programs;
- Processing fees: Fraudsters falsely promised to retrieve payments quicker for a small fee;
- Cash advances: Some lenders offered an advance on stimulus money. The catch: recipients pay a high interest rate which can add up quickly, costing them more than it is worth.
Here at AFS, our bank and credit union customers, collectively, have processed over 1 million Treasury items so far this year, compared to some 370,000 items over a similar period in 2019. Troublingly, AFS identified 41,000 of those million items as fraudulent – and were able to put holds on these items.
This has been made possible following new enhancements to TrueChecks® – the industry’s leading check fraud database and comprehensive check fraud prevention solution – including a direct link to the U.S. Department of the Treasury database, giving financial institutions the ability to validate Treasury items in real time or in batch, across their deposit channels.