The Federal Trade Commission(FTC) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) are alerting American families who received the enhanced child tax credit payment last week about scammers trying to steal their money.
More than thirty-five million families, worth $15 billion, saw the first child tax credit payment sent out by the IRS last week. But now scammers could start to call, text or contact people saying that they’re “here to help,” according to the FTC and BBB.
The FTC and BBB reiterated that the child tax credit is being distributed by the IRS, so it is highly encouraged to not respond to any other entity that may be contacting parents. The agency will not call, text or email parents asking for additional information.
It’s important to refrain from releasing personal information, Social Security numbers and bank or credit card information.
The FTC noted that scammers could insist that they can get parents more money from the federal government or even an advance in payment.
The warnings come after scammers also bombarded Americans following the approval of the three rounds of stimulus payments.
The FTC reported that more than $300 million worth of direct payments have been stolen—a figure that’s likely to jump as the IRS continues to send out checks.
Stimulus check scammers are reportedly using personal information to convince recipients that they are affiliated with a government agency or even with that person’s employer. Some have offered recipients help with depositing the direct payments, in which they would then steal the federal funds.
“These scams around COVID stimulus checks, coronavirus, are being undertaken by hackers and scammers in a more sophisticated way because they have easy, cheap access to more of our personal information,” Rob Shavell, a privacy expert at DeleteMe, told NBC-affiliate WCNC Charlotte.
Shavell added, “Unfortunately, it's just too easy to google somebody's personal information now, buy it for ninety-nine cents from a data broker, and go do something with it. I can find out somebody's date of birth, I can find out their company, I can find out their mother's maiden name, their employer, their past employer, their past addresses, email and phone.”
Scammers get access to personal information from data brokers, who gather and sell the information to businesses, advertisers and even individual hackers.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.