FTC Warns Consumers: Watch Out for Stimulus Check Scams

Portrait of mature woman using smartphone at home

10'000 Hours / Getty Images

For scammers, big news often means big money.

And now, with $242 billion in payments already out, the latest round of stimulus checks has been both big news and big money. So much so, that the checks have the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on high-alert for scammers trying to steal from unsuspecting victims.

The FTC already has stopped multiple COVID-related scams, acting FTC chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said in a statement on March 12, including grifts that promoted sham COVID-19 treatments and others that falsely claimed to provide access to small business coronavirus relief programs.

With the third round of Economic Impact Payments in the news, the FTC has again turned its attention to potential tricksters, warning people to do the same.

“Right now, we are particularly on alert for scams that try to trick people out of their stimulus payments,” Slaughter said in the statement. “While we at the FTC are working hard to guard against pandemic relief fraud, we also want to empower people to help protect themselves and their friends and family.”

The FTC offered these specific reminders for consumers:

  • You do not have to pay upfront to receive stimulus money, nor will the government ever ask you to pay anything upfront in exchange for your stimulus check.
  • The government will not call, text, email, or message you on social media to ask for personal information like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number. This is a red flag that you’re dealing with a scammer.
  • Anyone who tells you to pay by wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency is a scammer, regardless of their story.

You can report any behavior that you think might be a scam to the FTC at its website, ReportFraud.ftc.gov.