Scammers capitalize on COVID stimulus, vaccine rollout to steal private info


Between forthcoming stimulus checks and vaccine rollout, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller warns Iowans to be aware and careful of a variety of scams and fraudulent activity.

“Scammers follow the headlines,” Miller said. “They’ll take advantage of our excitement, confusion and other emotions.”

The Federal Trade Commission has released statements to remind Americans that no government agency will ask you to pay anything up front to receive your stimulus check — anyone who does is a scammer, the FTC said. Additionally, the government will not call, text, email or contact anyone on social media to ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers.

The FTC expects many scammers to claim that they can get your money earlier or faster through third parties.

“Anyone who says they can hook you up now (or soon) is both lying and a scammer,” the FTC said.

Relief funds could arrive via direct deposit, a paper check or an Economic Impact Payment debit card, which recipients should be careful not to throw away. Many Americans discarded their EIP cards in May, believing it to be fraudulent or a solicitation, and then had difficulty getting a replacement card.

The Iowa Attorney General’s office reached out to the US Treasury about problems with the EIP cards, some of which have been resolved.

Several scams have also been reported involving COVID vaccines. In December, Aging Resources of Central Iowa reported that a scammer was contacting Iowans offering “to sell a ticket of some kind to you or an older adult guaranteeing a place on a waiting list for the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The FBI also warns of similar scams and urges Americans to be aware of potential indicators of fraudulent activity, such as offers to undergo additional medical procedures when getting the vaccine, marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine in exchange for payment and unsolicited calls, emails or messages from someone claiming to be a healthcare worker, insurance company worker or employee from a COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal information to determine eligibility for the vaccine. Additionally, scammers have posed as government officials and claimed that you are required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The FBI also warns Americans to beware of companies offering products or treatments to prevent the virus. Check with your healthcare provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment.


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