Watch out for scams during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 12:16 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 14:16:18-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise Police Department (BPD) is warning people to look out for coronavirus-related scams and to talk with vulnerable people about how to avoid them. In times like these, scammers try to take advantage of the situation, looking at financial needs or emotional desperation.

Current scam warnings include the following:
Sweepstakes/Grant scams - With people out of work or experiencing financial hardships, scammers will look to tempt people with the possibly of free money. Most of these scams start with a phone call but can also happen through text, email or social media. One trend BPD is seeing is for the scammers to ask for taxes to be paid in advance, usually by purchasing gift cards or wiring money. In other cases they are phishing for personal information, like bank account and passwords to deposit the money/winnings.

Stimulus checks - Preying upon the same financial hardship or even a general lack of knowledge of the process, scammers are attempting to gain personal information of victims. Scammers claim to be the IRS or other government agencies attempting to verify social security numbers and bank account information so you can get your stimulus check. Like other IRS scams, the IRS will not call, text, email etc. You will be mailed a check or given a direct deposit based off your 2018 or 2019 tax returns. If you receive social security benefits, you do not need to fill out any additional paperwork and the stimulus payment will come in the same fashion as your benefits, typically direct deposit. You do not need to sign up to receive a stimulus check. Look for official sources of information for updates about stimulus checks.

Taxes/IRS/Social Security Scams - With the state tax deadline being extended, there is an opportunity for criminals to attempt to file taxes in your name. To avoid this, Boise Police suggest filing your taxes as soon as possible. Also due to confusion around taxes, scammers may attempt to take advantage by calling and claiming to be from the IRS or Social Security Administration and threatening arrest in an attempt to obtain personal information like your social security number and money.

Census- The Census provides many benefits to our community, but it is important to only provide personal information to official census workers. Identity thieves and scammers may use the Census as an opportunity to steal personal information.

Census workers will never ask for:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your citizenship status
  • Your bank account or credit card numbers
  • Money or donations
  • Political affiliations

If someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau contacts you via email or phone and asks you for any of these things, it's a scam and you should not cooperate. You can call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative if you have any questions about the identity of a 2020 Census Agent.

Boise Police Officers are responding to calls for service and maintaining essential public safety operations while the stay-at-home order remains in effect in Idaho. If you are having an emergency, call 911. For non-emergencies, call 208-377-6790 or fill out a police report online.

In general, BPD says they are seeing compliance with the stay-at-home order. In a press release, the department says they appreciate everyone's efforts to protect the health and safety of the community.