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VERIFY: Fake Text messages impersonating banks, talking about government checks and how to spot them

There's no shortage of scammers trying to take advantage of coronavirus-related fears and confusion.
Credit: AP
A man wearing a mask looks at his phone near Parliament Square, in London, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, British lawmakers will vote later Wednesday to shut down Parliament for 4 weeks, due to the coronavirus outbreak. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Better Business Bureau have already warned about scammers trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to impersonate them or sell fraudulent items.

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Scammers’ tactics aren’t just limited to those methods, however. They’ve also tried to emulate banks, phone companies and even the government in an attempt to get your personal information.

There’s several ways you can spot these scams and keep yourself safe.


Credit: VERIFY

Wells Fargo has a bullet about scams on their coronavirus updates webpage.

“Look out for suspicious email and text messages, medical supply scams, and fraudulent donation sites that may impersonate a company, charity, or government agency. The intent is to convince you to share sensitive information such as usernames and passwords, make purchases or donations on spoof websites, or download malware onto your device by opening a malicious link or attachment. If you receive a suspicious email or text message, don't respond, click on any links, or open attachments,” is what the bullet says.

Wells Fargo also sent an email to all of their customers warning them of these scams. The email said, “Wells Fargo will never ask you for your personal information or log-in credentials in an email or text message.”

That’s already a great place to start. If a text message or email asks you to share your username and password, it’s probably a scam. If any company, including a bank, sends you an unsolicited text message or email with a link, you should be wary.


Credit: VERIFY

As for scams that say you can claim your stimulus check, stay aware of timelines and read up on how you’ll receive your money.

FEMA has said that the government isn’t currently mailing checks and anyone who tells you that you can get your money now is a scammer. The Federal Trade Commission echoed that and added the government will not ask you to pay anything up front to receive this money and the government will not call you to ask for your Social Security number, bank account or credit card number.

Text messages regarding stimulus checks began circulating before the Senate even agreed on a bill that would include the checks -- which didn’t happen until last night. Even now that a bill has been agreed on, it needs to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by the president. Even after that happens, it’s unlikely they’ll start sending the money out immediately.

If you’re suspicious of a text message or email from a company or organization, you can always contact their customer service line and get verification if the communication is real. Most government agencies have a number you can call as well to verify if something is real.

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