Financial

Tips for protecting yourself from coronavirus-related ID theft scams

A person uses a laptop while holding a credit card

Identity thieves aren't taking a break during the pandemic. When it comes to safeguarding your ID, neither should you.

Since federal stimulus payments, coronavirus tests, and financial hardship are in the news these days, identity thieves have been trying new avenues to trick people into giving up personal information. We look at some of the new tactics that fraudsters are trying, and the steps you can take to protect yourself. 

1. Stimulus payment-related schemes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is currently sending stimulus payments to most Americans. Thieves have come up with new scams around this program, with many claiming to be the IRS or someone else who can help speed up your payment if you give them money or your personal information.

How to avoid them:

  • The IRS says most people won't need to do anything to receive their payment, so beware anyone pressuring you to act quickly.
  • The IRS will not call, text, email, or reach out to you on social media regarding your payment. Likewise, it will not request your Social Security number, bank account numbers, or other information. 
  • If you're concerned that the IRS doesn't have your information, or want to check the status of your payment, the only official and secure place to do so is on the IRS' own website at IRS.gov/coronavirus.
  • The IRS is referring to the stimulus payments as "Economic Impact Payments," so beware anyone who claims to be a government official but uses terms like "stimulus check."

2. Phony cures & companies

While various drugs are being assessed or are under development, the FDA says it has not approved any treatments, cures, or vaccines for COVID-19. Nevertheless, scammers have adapted one of the oldest frauds to the new pandemic, with many promoting "miracle cures" or other supposed treatments for coronavirus. They either want to sell you the product, or want you to invest in the company's stock so the price will go up and they can sell at a profit. Even if they don't ask for your information, clicking a link they send you might infect your device with malware that can steal your info. 

How to avoid them:

  • Know that, for now, there are no FDA-approved treatments for COVID-19, so anyone trying to sell you one or get you to invest in a company supposedly making one is unlikely to be legitimate. 
  • Don't give personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number, to people who contact you unsolicited.
  • Likewise, don't click links that purport to be about miracle products; they might install ID-stealing malware on your device.

3. Phishing emails with a coronavirus angle

Scammers have long used phishing to steal personal information. That's when fraudsters send fake emails pretending to be from reputable organizations in the hopes that recipients will share their password or other personal info. The coronavirus pandemic has provided these scams new life, with many now claiming to be from charitable organizations responding to the outbreak, or from public health officials such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) asking you to click a link to see a list of nearby cases. 

How to avoid them:

  • Keep up to date on health information by going to the official websites of health authorities such as CDC.gov or WHO.int. Don't click links in emails that purport to be from officials—even if they're legitimate, you can get the same information by going to their website.
  • Similarly, it's best to go to a charity's website through your browser, rather than clicking a link in an email. 
  • Know that organizations like the CDC and WHO will never ask for your personal info in exchange for access to their resources.

Whatever the scam, keep the basics in mind

Even during the pandemic, old-school ID theft scams are still out there, too. Following ID protection best practices can help you stay safe regardless of the specifics. 

  • Don't give your personal information to people you don't know, no matter who they claim to be.
  • Don't open attachments or click links if you don't know what they are and who sent them.
  • If you're unsure about a link in an email, hover over it to see whether it really goes where it claims to.
  • If you have an account at a website and you receive an email saying there's a problem with it or something requires your attention, use your browser to go directly to that website to investigate. Don't click any links in the email.
  • Consider enrolling in an ID theft protection plan if you haven't already.
Experian logo

Get free identity theft protection

Get the tools you need to help safeguard your identity and resolve potential issues by enrolling in ProtectMyID® Essential, a free plan for AAA members provided by Experian®.

Enroll today

Information taken from "Coronavirus Advice for Consumers" (https://www.ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams-consumer-advice), Federal Trade Commission; "Coronavirus stimulus payment scams: What you need to know" (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/04/coronavirus-stimulus-payment-scams-what-you-need-know), Federal Trade Commission, April 20, 2020; "Coronavirus Tax Relief and Economic Impact Payments" (https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus-tax-relief-and-economic-impact-payments), Internal Revenue Service; "COVID-19-Related Phone Scams and Phishing Attacks" (https://www.cdc.gov/media/phishing.html), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; "Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions" (https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-frequently-asked-questions), Food and Drug Administration; "Beware of criminals pretending to be the WHO" (https://www.who.int/about/communications/cyber-security), World Health Organization; "That Personal Email May Not Be Personal at All ... or How to Spot Phishing During the Holiday Season" (https://www.experian.com/blogs/news/2018/12/21/spot-phishing/), Experian, Dec. 21, 2018; "Coronavirus Scams Spread as Fraudsters Follow the Headlines" (https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2020/coronavirus.html), AARP, May 12, 2020.

Zip code banner

Welcome to the

American Automobile Association

Please enter your home ZIP Code so we can direct you to the correct AAA club’s website.

GO
back to top icon