Scammers are posing as government entities and organizations to steal individuals' financial information through robocalls, text messages, emails, websites and social media. Hoosiers, be on guard and aware as fraudsters are preying on virus-related fears to take advantage of the innocent.
New scams are reported every day and popular scams are related to public health, government checks or refunds, student loan repayment plans and debt consolidation offers. Criminals have tried to selling fake cures or vaccines, spreading false updates or seeking donations for non-existent charities. We have also heard of hoax text messages offering free home testing kits and low-priced health insurance.
Hoosiers applying for small business loans or receiving the government's stimulus payments are also being targeted by fraudsters. Imposters are impersonating the Small Business Administration asking business owners for a processing fee, tax ID or social security number.
Additionally, taxpayers receiving federal stimulus payments need to be vigilant as criminals are trying to steal personal information and your money. The Federal Trade Commission reports that scammers are misleading individuals by asking to have their stimulus check signed over, mailing fake checks to people and asking for banking information over text messages. The Internal Revenue Service is automatically sending out checks, with no action required, or directly depositing the amount into taxpayers' bank accounts. Generally, no one from the government would ever call or text to ask for that information.
To protect yourself from various types of scams by phone or online, carefully inspect all email addresses, avoid clicking on links from unsolicited emails, be wary of email attachments, use legitimate government websites, don't reveal personal or financial information to anyone and hang up on robocalls.
For individuals who are receiving messages attempting to gather personal data that appears to be sent from the Indiana Department of Revenue, IRS or other government agency, forward messages onto email@example.com. If you are a victim of a scam, please contact local law enforcement. You may also file a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division by going to IndianaConsumer.com and clicking "File a Complaint."
As many of us continue to stay home and do our part to help slow the spread of this virus, scammers are ramping up their efforts. Please be alert and protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim. For more information and to stay on top of reported COVID-19 scams, visit indianaconsumer.com or ftc.gov/coronavirus.
State Rep. Stephen Bartels (R-Eckerty) represents House District 74,
which includes portions of Spencer, Dubois, Perry, Crawford and Orange counties.
Click here to download a high-resolution photo.