Disclaimer: The following information is not legal advice, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Information contained in this post is solely for informational and educational purposes only. Information contained in this post is procured from varying reputable sources. *Licensed in MA.
Safeguard Personally-Identifying Information
Times of crisis creates the perfect opportunity for identity theft criminals to strike. While America is being asked to don masks to protect ourselves from COVID-19, an invisible virus, identity theft criminals, and those committing scams are lurking to strike where we are most vulnerable, our wallets.
In this new era of joblessness, public closures, and social-distancing, the need for financial assistance has never been greater. As a result, there will be many legitimate companies and people wanting to help and asking for your personal information, but how do you know who you can trust?
Adhering to the following tips will help protect both your wallet and you. Below are the most vulnerable areas for fraud, scams, and identity theft to occur.
Tips to Help Prevent Fraud & Identity Theft
Identity Theft Tips for IRS Stimulus Payments:
- The IRS will NOT be calling you to identify and verify your personal information
- For questions about your Federal stimulus payment visit: https://sa.www4.irs.gov/irfof-wmsp/login
- If you have further questions, contact your local IRS department for more information
Common Scams and Schemes Known By The SBA
*Information procured From the Office of The Inspector General and www.SBA.gov
- SBA does not initiate contact on either 7a or Disaster loans or grants. If you are proactively contacted by someone claiming to be from the SBA, suspect fraud.
- If you are contacted by someone promising to get approval of an SBA loan, but requires any payment upfront or offers a high-interest bridge loan in the interim, suspect fraud.
- SBA limits the fees a broker can charge a borrower to 3% for loans $50,000 or less and 2% for loans $50,000 to $1,000,000 with an additional ¼% on amounts over $1,000,000. Any attempt to charge more than these fees is inappropriate.
- If you have a question about getting an SBA disaster loan, call 800-659-2955 or send an email to email@example.com.
- If you have questions about other SBA lending products, call SBA’s Answer Desk at 800-827-5722 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are in the process of applying for an SBA loan and receive email correspondence asking for PII, ensure that the referenced application number is consistent with the actual application number.
- Look out for phishing attacks/scams utilizing the SBA logo. These may be attempts to obtain your personally identifiable information (PII), to gain personal banking access, or to install ransomware/malware on your computer.
- Any email communication from SBA will come from accounts ending with sba.gov.
- The presence of an SBA logo on a webpage does not guaranty the information is accurate or endorsed by SBA. Please cross-reference any information you receive with information available at www.sba.gov.
MA Unemployment Scam
*Information is procured from: https://blog.mass.gov/consumer/massconsumer/unemployment-benefit-email-scam/
- The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance never contacts unemployment claimants through a third party, nor does the department require email verification. All claims should be filed directly with the Department of Unemployment Assistance at http://www.mass.gov/lwd/unemployment-insur/claimants/.
- If you are receiving unemployment benefits in Massachusetts, beware of emails from an out-of-state firm calling itself Unemployment Assist. The emails with a subject line that reads: “ID Eligibility Requirement 1: Must be Available for Work” or “Verification Required: 2nd Request” request personally identifiable information, claiming to need the information to initiate or complete a claim for unemployment benefits. The emails attempt to get claimants to respond with personal information, and falsely state a claim may be denied or benefits delayed. (These emails are not from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance and should be deleted. Anyone receiving unemployment benefits should not click on the links or answer any questions from emails with the address email@example.com. )
- If you have additional concerns inquiries whether you are the victim of a potential scam, please contact the OFFICE OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS AND BUSINESS REGULATION or by calling the MA Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757 Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm.
It’s important to stay vigilant during this time of crisis and protect your personal information during this time. If you suspect you have become a victim of identity fraud, contact your local police authorities immediately.