Stimulus check phone scams have skyrocketed

Stimulus Check
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Although Congress has yet to approve a fourth stimulus check, the number of stimulus check-related phone scams (opens in new tab) have doubled in each of the last two months according to new research from the caller identification company Hiya (opens in new tab).

Based on its analysis of over 13bn calls each month, Hiya was able to determine that stimulus check phone scams reached an all-time high of more than 1.1m in June. In fact, the first week of June was the worst week on record with a 150 percent increase in stimulus check scam calls.

During 2020 the US government sent out one stimulus check (opens in new tab) to Americans in April and then in 2021, it sent out one in January and another in March. However, the number of stimulus check scam calls have already nearly doubled this year when compared 2020.

While the pandemic disrupted businesses around the world, spammers and fraudsters have already fully recovered as the number of unwanted calls have surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Victims of these scams lost an average of $182 to scam calls in 2020 with seven percent of those affected reporting that they lost over $1,000.

Stimulus check phone scams

As part of its research into the matter, Hiya identified the most popular scams tied to stimulus checks as well as the states and area codes that were the most frequently targeted by scammers.

The most popular scam tries to steal a victim's personally identifiable information (PII (opens in new tab)) by claiming they must verify their information in order to receiver their stimulus check. Another common tactic used by scammers is to request a victim's bank information in order to directly deposit the funds that day. 

Other common tactics include fake companies or government agencies offering loan forgiveness or loan advances if an individual forfeits their stimulus check and fake government agencies claiming their social security number (SSN (opens in new tab)) is no longer active or valid.

When it comes to the states targeted the most by stimulus check phone scams, Texas took the top spot followed by California, Florida, Louisiana and Illinois. In terms of cities and area codes, San Antonio (210), Dallas (214) and Fort Worth (817) were the most targeted.

In order to avoid falling victim to stimulus check phone scams, Hiya recommends that users don't answer or return calls if they don't recognize the number and they should also enable their carrier's call protection service such as AT&T Call Protect (opens in new tab) or install a call protection app.

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.