Free money. It’s an offer that’s hard to resist, isn’t it? But, as the old saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
Scammers often use the “payment lure” method to trick their unsuspecting victims. They’ll send an email claiming you’re entitled to some money, and all you need to do is provide your account information so they can make the deposit. Before you know it, you’re handing over all the details they need to access your account and help themselves to your hard-earned money.
Here are some tips to help you avoid falling prey to this scam.
Be extra suspicious when COVID-19 stimulus money is mentioned
It’s a lot easier to spot a payment lure scam when you weren’t expecting any money to begin with. But, this year U.S. taxpayers did receive legitimate payments in the form of a stimulus check, and there are rumblings in the news of more stimulus money to come in the future. Suddenly, a claim of “free money” doesn’t seem as far-fetched. Scammers are well aware of this fact and use it to trick their victims into a false sense of security.
Remember that if the federal government decides to send another check, neither the IRS nor any other organization will email you about claiming your payment. Instead, the IRS will use the information from your last tax return. If you are concerned that you are missing a stimulus payment, visit the IRS website directly at irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.
Don’t reveal your personal information
If someone asks you for private information through an email or a website link, do not comply. Account information, including usernames and passwords, should never be sent through email.
Keep your devices updated
By installing the latest updates and patches on your mobile or desktop device, you’re helping it become better equipped to block potential threats. However, you should always check that the updates are coming directly from trusted sources, such as Microsoft, Apple, etc. If you receive an update request via email, links, or a website, you may find yourself inadvertently downloading a virus or malware that can steal your personal information from your device.
Contact the organization directly to verify legitimacy
If for any reason you suspect an email was sent by an imposter (also known as “phishing”), contact the company directly. They can tell you if the request is legitimate. Do not use the contact information provided in the email. Find a phone number elsewhere, such as your billing statement or the organization’s website.
For more tips on protecting yourself from scams, visit our Security Page.