FBI Detroit bureau warns of increased scams as new COVID-19 stimulus package gets signed

Posted at 1:14 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 18:34:27-05

(WXYZ) — The FBI Detroit Bureau is warning people of an increase in fraud cases tied to the newly-passed $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package.

Scammers are working to steal millions designed for economic stimulus, and in one way or another, we are all being victimized.

“Anytime there’s a significant amount of money coming in, bad guys are going to find a way to steal it," FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge James Barnacle said.

He said those funds are being targeted yet again, a day after President Joe Biden signed the package.

Those who have lost their jobs are finding out the hard way they are among the victims.

“Over a million people in Michigan have lost their jobs in the last year, and we’ve had folks go to file for unemployment and find out their name and social security is already being used," he said.

Barnacle said monitoring your credit is the first step in keeping track. Also, consider identity theft protection.

Another wave of scams is hitting seniors with calls and emails pretending to be from the IRS or utility company. Some scammers are telling people to buy gift cards and share their numbers over the phone.

“We see our elderly population being targeted with several scams that include impersonating law enforcement, tax scams and saying a utility bill is unpaid," Barnacle added.

There's also a particular technique used to fool people.

“Bad guy puts a sense of urgency into it. They call it a high priority and say you’ve got to do it now," he added.

Add to that, other crooks are calling to offer expedited access to COVID-19 vaccinations for an upfront charge, which is illegal.

The FBI says if you’re not sure if a caller is looking to scam you, just hang up and call an official number to the company or agency on your own, to verify if what’s being said is truthful.