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Fraud Task Force warns of stimulus check scam

FRANKFORT – State and Federal law enforcement officials from the Kentucky Coronavirus Fraud Task Force recently alerted Kentuckians about potential scams involving payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last week.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky Rob Duncan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky Russell Coleman, and representatives from the FBI Louisville Field Office reported that scammers are impersonating government agencies and contacting Kentuckians about their stimulus checks, also known as “economic impact payments.” The scammers claim to need personal and financial information from citizens in order to see if they are eligible for stimulus checks. Scammers may also request the information with the promise of processing stimulus checks early.

“Within a few days of the passage of the CARES Act, scammers have already started using the promise of relief to exploit Kentuckians by trying to steal their personal and financial information,” said Cameron. “These despicable actions have no place in Kentucky, and we are working diligently with our federal partners to stop scammers and fraudsters. I encourage anyone who comes in contact with one of these scams to report it immediately to our office.”

“I encourage all Kentuckians to remain vigilant and not fall prey to scammers seeking to take advantage of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 national emergency,” said Duncan. “The Federal Government will not contact you by telephone seeking your personal information. So, everyone needs to be alert. If you do get contacted by a scammer, report it immediately. We, and our law enforcement partners, are committed to combatting this disgraceful conduct and holding perpetrators accountable for these appalling scams.”

“While thieves are certainly creative, Kentucky law enforcement is committed to protecting you and your family,” said Coleman. “Please review the safety tips to help us shut down this new type of fraud before it can take place.”

“With the outbreak of COVID-19, scammers have found a platform that preys on people’s fears and could make them more likely to be victimized,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Brown, FBI Louisville Field Office. “Through the Kentucky Coronavirus Fraud Task Force, FBI Louisville is working unabated to protect Kentuckians from criminals attempting to take advantage of a most vulnerable time.”

The Federal Trade Commission released information and tips regarding stimulus check scams. As well, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued guidance regarding the processing of stimulus checks, noting that most checks will be distributed automatically and that action will not be needed by the majority of citizens.

Follow these tips to avoid falling prey to scams involving payments from the CARES Act:

• Do not provide your personal or financial information, including your social security number or bank account information, to an unknown source.

• Be wary of anyone who asks for payment up front in exchange for a stimulus check. You will not be required to provide advance payment in order to receive your check.

• Always verify the source of the information regarding the CARES Act or stimulus checks. Consult legitimate government websites with “.gov” domains, such as IRS.gov, for the latest information regarding payments.

If you are contacted by a scammer, report the scam immediately to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or fill out an online scam complaint form.

Kentuckians may also report online scams and fraud to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.

The Kentucky Coronavirus Fraud Task Force is a joint federal and state partnership coordinated by Assistant United States Attorneys from both the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky, in partnership with experienced fraud investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office. The mission of the task force is to identify, investigate, and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic impacting Kentuckians.