This is a busy time for scammers and identity thieves -- it's tax season, people are looking for stimulus checks and unemployment compensation, and may let down their guard when exposing personal and financial information.
The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) wants the public to be aware that this week is ID Theft Awareness Week and warns consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for the following schemes in 2021:
- COVID-19 vaccine scams. No state or federal agency will contact consumers out-of-the-blue to offer a COVID-19 vaccine in return for private information or money. There is no way to “skip the line” and you cannot get the vaccine faster than others if you do not qualify. Don’t trust advertisements selling vaccines. If you qualify for a vaccine, you will need to reach out to the Department of Health and Environmental (DHEC) and then you will need to give over your personal information to setup an appointment. For information on South Carolina’s vaccine program, visit SCDHEC’s website or call their Care Line at 1 (855) 472-3432.
- Stimulus payments from the government. Some consumers are still be waiting on their stimulus payments in either the form of a check or debit card. Remember, the government will never ask for you to pay anything in order to get the money. Consumers should also beware of someone who promises to get you the money now or faster than expected. Check irs.gov/coronavirus for updates.
- Tax fraud. It’s tax season and scammers always come out of the woodwork to celebrate. These scams usually involve a phone call, text or email from someone posing as the “IRS.” The legit or real IRS will not contact consumers to ask for personal information. Scammers also use consumer information to file tax returns and steal refunds before a consumer files. To avoid this form of identity theft, file your taxes early. For more information on how to avoid tax fraud, click here.
- Phishing emails or texts. Inboxes often get messages from impostors acting like a shipping company or other trustworthy organization. Remember, don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. Guard against these scammers by keeping your computer software updated, using security software, changing your passwords at least every three months and using multi-factor authentication. For more tips to avoid phishing scams, click here.
Consumers are encouraged to report scams and identity theft to the SCDCA Identity Theft Unit. Call (844) TELL DCA (835-5322) or fill out a Scam Report form by visiting our website and clicking on the How Do I… button, then Report a Scam.