Watch Out for This New COVID Scam

woman reading FTC scam email on computer

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers about a scam email that looks like it's coming from someone very well known to them: their former chairman.

The email that has been landing in the inboxes of unwitting recipients bears the name of Joe Simons, who was replaced as FTC chairman on January 21, 2021. It's just one sign that the email is a scam that has no connection to Simons or the FTC.

The scam email drops a lot of well-known, and in some cases frightening, organizations and phrases including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. State Department, Treasury Department, "money owed," and terrorism.

Here’s how the scam works:

In the email, the recipient is promised coronavirus relief money, something so many financially struggling Americans would welcome. There’s even a "certificate of authenticity" attached to the email, supposedly from the Treasury Department.

But there's a catch to receiving the money. The enticing offer is accompanied by a request from the IRS that taxes must be paid before money will be distributed.
 
Recipients are also required to pay the State Department for a "Anti-Terrorist Clearing Bond" that proves the funds are not related to any terrorist activity and that the recipient can receive the coronavirus relief money free and clear.

Anyone who's unlucky enough to send money receives a follow-up communication telling them their money is on its way.

Money is certainly heading out, but not to the person who was scammed. Their hard-earned money is lining the pockets of yet another greedy scammer.

The FTC asks consumers to heed their advice:

  • Government agencies don’t call, text or email with threats, promises or demands for money. You can be assured these communications are from scammers. Hang up on them, delete their correspondence, and/or ignore them.
  • Never give out financial or personal identifiable information, such as a Social Security number or mother's maiden name, for promises of payment.
  • Caller ID can be faked to indicate the call is from a government agency when, in fact, it isn’t. So don't trust the caller or number you see on the screen.
  • Never pay with a gift card or wire transfer. Anyone asking you to pay that way is scamming you.
  • When in doubt, reach out. Call the agency in question by looking up their number yourself to ask about any material you are unsure about. Do not use any number the caller or correspondent gives you. Do the research yourself. 
  • Report fraud to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.


It's important to keep in mind that the FTC does not have any involvement with economic stimulus money, another red flag. Stimulus payments come from the IRS.

Remember: Hanscom FCU will never contact you and ask you to confirm your password or PINs. If you think your accounts at Hanscom FCU have been compromised by this scam or any other, please call our Remote Support team at 800-656-4328 immediately.

For more information about legitimate coronavirus payments, visit irs.gov/coronavirus.

 

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*Note that Hanscom FCU's Credit Score and Report Review requires a hard pull on your credit, which will temporarily reduce your credit score.

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About Author

Sandra Quadros Bowles
Sandra Quadros Bowles

Sandy Quadros Bowles is a veteran journalist who has received local, state, and national journalism awards. A resident of New Bedford, MA, she is an animal enthusiast, an avid reader, and an enthusiastic traveler.

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