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How To Detect & Protect Yourself From COVID-19 Stimulus Scams

How to Detect & Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Stimulus Scams

Since time immemorial, the art of the scam has been ingrained into the darker parts of our nature. Unfortunately, these parts have been willing to take advantage of unwitting individuals and businesses precisely when they are at their most vulnerable: during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why, today, Troy Bank & Trust provides tips for detecting and protecting yourself from COVID-19 stimulus scams. 

The federal government went to great lengths at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to protect American families and businesses. Many of these programs are ongoing. In fact, just months ago, we posted a blog about the Employee Retention Tax Credit. Many people and businesses await payments from the United States Treasury. Though it may seem as if the door has shut on stimulus scams, there remain endless opportunities for scammers to take advantage of those owed or who believe they are owed stimulus money. 

Understanding the Legitimate Stimulus Packages

The first step toward knowledge is understanding. It’s far different to memorize something than understand how it works. Therefore, to know how to detect and protect yourself from COVID-19 stimulus scams, let’s make sure we understand what they comprise. 

  1. Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act: On March 6, 2020, the federal government provided $8.3 billion for vaccine and testing development.
  1. Families First Coronavirus Response Act: On March 18, 2020, $225 billion went toward COVID-19 testing, paid sick leave, and food assistance.
  1. CARES Act: On March 27, 2020, the government spent $2.2 trillion on the $1,200 stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, Paycheck Protection Program, small business forgiveness loan program, aid for state and local governments, and aid for corporations.
  1. Paycheck Protection Program & Healthcare Enhancement Act: On April 24, 2020, $483 billion of additional funding was authorized for the Paycheck Protection Program and further COVID-19 testing.
  1. Consolidated Appropriations Act: On Dec. 28, 2020, congress added $920 billion to a larger government funding bill. This included $600 stimulus checks, the renewed Paycheck Protection Program, vaccine funding, and a boost to unemployment benefits at $300 per week.
  1. American Rescue Plan: On March 10, 2021, the first relief bill from the Biden presidency allocated $1.9 trillion to another $1,400 round stimulus checks, school reopenings, and vaccine distribution and development. 

That’s a whole lot of spending. Now we can see how many opportunities there are for scams. Moreover, we can understand exactly what was spent and to whom, making it easier for us to detect scams. 

The Top Six COVID-19 Stimulus Scams

Now that we understand the pandemic stimulus, it’s time to understand how scammers take advantage of unwitting recipients. Below, we list the top six COVID-19 stimulus scams:

  1. ERTC “Recalculation”

    With the ERTC checks still en route to businesses across the country, scammers are alive and well. Scammers will attempt to lure you with the promise of ‘optimizing’ or ‘maximizing’ your ERTC check(s). They do so by offering to recalculate your ERTC and take a percentage of the added credit.

    Unless these offers are coming from your accountant or CPA—who offers their standard rate for their time—it’s guaranteed to be a scam. 
  1. Social Media Messages

    Here’s a dry fact without room for debate: The US government will never message you via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media. The Better Business Bureau is scouring out scams that lead to websites built to steal personal information.
  1. Social Security Number Requests

    In 2021 alone, the Social Security Administration received over 450,000 instances of scammers asking for SS numbers. They’ll usually pose as IRS personnel. Never offer this information unless it’s through an official government portal or banking program. 
  1. SBA Scams

    Small Business Administration correspondence will come from email addresses ending in sba.gov. If you receive a message or email from any other address, it’s a scam.
  1. Expedited Payment Scams

    Here at Troy Bank & Trust, we get it—the IRS is extremely backlogged. Stimulus money is taking longer than anyone would like to get out to people and businesses. Scammers are well aware of this. Posing as professionals or experts, they offer people opportunities to get their money faster. Here’s a fast fact for you: no one can get you your check other than the United States Treasury. If anyone claims otherwise, it’s a scam.
  1. Cash Advance Scams

    This one is less a scam than a form of predatory lending—which is a scam nonetheless. Lenders will offer to give you an advance on your stimulus payment for exorbitant interest rates. The opportunity to get your money quicker may seem tempting, but at a 50% interest rate, you’ll find that it was far from worth it.

If you experience any of the above, feel free to reach out to Troy Bank’s customer service branch and ask questions. We’re here to help you protect your money. Despite COVID-19, all Troy Bank & Trust services are fully operational

Understanding COVID-19 Stimulus Scams

The above represent but a fraction of the scams running rampant throughout the pandemic’s many stimulus programs. As they say, however, it’s better to teach a man to fish. 

Understanding the stimulus programs listed earlier in our blog allows you to deduce the viability of any message or offer you may receive. Got an email from an institution offering to get you your stimulus check faster—all you have to do is sign up? Well, we know there isn’t another round coming, and we certainly don’t want to give our personal information to anyone outside our bank or federal portal.


As always, please reach out to Troy Bank & Trust if you experience any scam attempts or have any questions related to potential scams. Additionally, visit us online for more information about our strategies and tools to help customers throughout the pandemic.