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New Stimulus Checks Could Trigger More Cons

[Fraud Watch]

The recent passage of the American Rescue Plan Act means a new round of stimulus checks are on their way. Direct deposit payments will hit Americans’ bank accounts in the next few days, and checks will be mailed out in the coming weeks. Previously, BBB Scam Tracker received numerous reports from people who were contacted by scammers through text message, email, and phone calls about their COVID-19 stimulus checks. BBB believes many of these same tactics may be used again.

Is that call or text a con or the real deal?

Watch out for email or text messages instructing to click a link to “request benefit payments.” The link connects to an application prompting the entering of personal information in order to “make sure you are getting all the payments owed to you.”  Beware! This “application” is really a way to phish for personal details and commit identity theft.

In a phone variation of the con, the scammer pretends to call from a government agency. The con artist insists on being paid immediately – or confirmation of personal information – before a stimulus check is sent.  Other times, scammers claim additional funds are available or that the consumer can receive funds immediately once a small “processing fee” is paid with a prepaid debit card. These are all red flags and should be reported to BBB Scam Tracker.

Tips to Spot a Government Imposter Scam: 

  • Stay calm. Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is. Scammers try to get people to act before thinking about the situation.
  • Don’t reply directly. Don’t respond to unknown calls, texts, or emails. If you think the message may be real, find the government agencies’ contact information on the internet and contact them directly.
  • Check for look-alikes. Research to see if the government agency or organization that contacted you actually exists. Scammers often make up names of agencies and/or grants.
  • Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant or program.  It is not really free if there is a fee involved. A real government agency will not ask for an advanced processing fee.  Instead, find out if the agency is legitimate by checking

For more information

Learn more about government grant scams in this BBB tip and for more information about scams related to the coronavirus, see

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.

Barry N. Moore is president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia, including Metro Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Petersburg, along with forty-two Virginia counties. Barry lives in Richmond with his family.

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