Expats worldwide rejoiced as they heard they can cash the stimulus checks too. That sounds great, but it’s not without its flaws!
Because stimulus check scams are popping up everywhere now. According to data, these scams have cost Americans approximately $300 million!
It’s scary, we know, but don’t worry – we’ll show you how to spot stimulus check scams from a mile away! Also, we’ll show you one cool online tool you can use to secure your traffic when you cash your stimulus check online.
How to Tell If You’re Dealing with a Stimulus Check Scam (4 Signs)
We scoured the web to find reports of stimulus check scams. After hours of research, we managed to put together this list of the most common tell-tale signs:
1. You Get an Unsolicited Email or Phone Call
The IRS or Treasury Department won’t directly contact you to tell you it’s time to submit your stimulus check application. Neither will they call or message you to ask for personal information or ask you to pay an upfront fee (we’ll get to this in a bit).
Keep in mind that modern technology makes it extremely easy for anyone to impersonate a government agency – either over email or phone. If you receive unsolicited emails about stimulus checks, just ignore then. Better yet, report the sender, mark the emails as spam, and block the sender’s address.
2. There’s a Sense of Urgency
If you’re talking with someone claiming to help you get your stimulus check, and they try to pressure you into taking an immediate action, that’s likely a scam.
No, you won’t lose your chance to claim your stimulus check if you don’t pay an upfront fee right then and there. Or if you don’t share sensitive information like your credit card numbers, bank account login credentials, or Social Security number. Anyone who says that is lying to you.
3. You’re Asked to Verify Sensitive Information
You should be wary of any messages or phone calls that ask you to verify personal information. No, the IRS won’t give you a call or text message to ask you to verify name or Social Security number.
If you are told to access a link to verify the info, here’s what will happen – you’ll end up on a fake site. Once you type the requested info, the hackers running the site will have access to it.
It’s easy to see why that’s a problem, right?
Once they get their hands on your personal data, they’ll be able to use it to commit identity theft.
4. You Need to Pay an Early-Bird Fee
Please remember – you won’t be able to get your stimulus check funds faster if you pay an upfront fee. If someone tells you that, they’re a scammer – especially if they ask you to pay through a PayPal link or with cryptocurrencies.
And no, there’s no such thing as paying an extra fee to get more funds. If you do that, the scammer will just run away with your money.
How to Securely Cash Your Stimulus Check
So now you know how to avoid stimulus check scams. That’s a good start – but you’re not done yet! Just because you can avoid them doesn’t mean it’s still safe to cash your check online. It’s very risky to do that still – especially if you use public WiFi. If it’s unsecured (it doesn’t have a password), hackers will be able to spy on your traffic and steal sensitive data from you.
And you’re not out of the woods even if you use secured WiFi networks. Most of them use WPA2 to encrypt your data, and that security standard is vulnerable to a serious cyber attack.Sure, you could use a network that uses WPA3, but that’s not good enough either – WPA3 also has security vulnerabilities!
So what should you do then?
The answer is simple – just use a VPN! VPNs will let you securely cash your stimulus check abroad no matter where you are in the world.
How VPNs Keep You Safe
The main thing VPNs do is encrypt your traffic. That means they make your data completely unreadable. Even if you use an unsecured network, hackers won’t be able to eavesdrop on your traffic. If they do that, they’ll only see gibberish.
For example, instead of seeing bits of data that reveal your Social Security number, they’ll only see things like Jhfgsh523hUFSt3hj.
And VPNs encrypt your data end-to-end, so only the VPN app (which you install on your device) and VPN server (which you connect to) can decrypt your traffic.
But Wait, There’s More!
Because VPNs encrypt your traffic, they make it pretty much impossible for cybercriminals to redirect your connections to phishing sites with MITM attacks. They’ll have no idea what sites you’re supposed to end up on, after all.
Also, many top VPNs have ad blockers. They block ads, of course, but that’s not all – they’re also configured to block connections to malicious sites. So even if you get a phishing message and accidentally click on a malicious link, you won’t end up on a fake stimulus check site. The VPN’s ad blocker will automatically drop the connection.
How to Use a VPN to Secure Your Traffic
VPNs are very consumer-friendly tools. Here’s what you need to do to use one to securely cash your stimulus check:
- Subscribe to a good VPN (like ExpressVPN or NordVPN). There are free VPNs, but we don’t recommend using them – they’re not secure, have buggy apps, and are very slow.
- After you create an account, download and install the VPN provider’s app on your device.
- When you’re done, run the app and connect to a VPN server. The closest one is good enough – that’s the best way to have the fastest speeds.
- Go ahead and handle your stimulus check paperwork! All your traffic will be secured by the VPN so nobody will be able to spy on it or manipulate it.
How Do You Avoid Stimulus Check Scams?
Please let us know how else you can spot a stimulus check scam and which security tools you can use to protect yourself from them. Also, if you use a VPN, please tell us which one and why.