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By Charlestien Harris

Despite the hardships many are facing because of the coronavirus pandemic, there are some who will still try to take advantage of those already struggling. Scams are just as, if not more prevalent now, than before the virus appeared. 

Some scammers have been using relief payments from the government as a means to gain access to people’s financial information.  Whether you received a stimulus payment or are still waiting, follow these tips to keep scammers from taking your money.

  • Don’t pay anyone to get your relief payment. There are no fees to get your money. 
  • Don’t respond to calls, texts, or emails about money from the government—or anyone asking for your personal or bank account information.  Government agencies like the IRS will not call, text, or email you about your relief payment.
  • Never click on links in emails, texts, or on social media for information about your relief payment. Always start at  to check your eligibility, payment status, enter direct deposit information, or find out what to do to get your payment.
  • Don’t respond to anyone who says your payment was too high, and tells you to repay the money by sending cash, a gift card, or a money transfer. That’s always a scam.

Learning how to spot scammers can be difficult because they often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.  

Here are some practical tips to help you avoid being scammed:

  1. Do online searches. You can find out a lot by researching a product, organization or person. If there is a problem you will more than likely not be the only person with a complaint and the internet is a great place to start that search for additional information.

2. Don’t always believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

3. Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards and gift cards. Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.

4. Talk to someone first. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, consult an expert — or just tell a friend or family member.

5. Don’t deposit a check and wire the money back to anyone.  By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

You can sign up for free scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission at . You can get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox by providing your email address.  If you spot a scam, report it at Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.

Until next week, stay financially fit!