Don't Be a Victim of Coronavirus-related Scams
This page contains important resources to help you, the American consumer, avoid being taken advantage of by criminals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Main COVID-19 Resources
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the United States Government immediately responded to the call for help and enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act distributed roughly $2 trillion to citizens and businesses in need. With this unprecedented sum of money, it has attracted criminal actors to commit fraud on multiple fronts.
As the pandemic continues, the Secret Service witnessed a proliferation and diversification of criminal schemes, particularly an increase in targeting various economic relief programs, such as: state unemployment insurance benefits fraud, fraudulent loan applications, and fraudulent economic impact payments.
The Secret Service stresses that individuals seeking information about the stimulus/relief programs contact the specific government agency via its website for guidance. Individuals should follow protocols published by those government websites. During this time, it is stressed that the public maintain an increased vigilance when providing any PII or other privileged and protected information.
The Secret Service will continue to work with our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners, along with the private sector partners, to disrupt and dismantle COVID-19 related fraud schemes.
Money Laundering: Don’t Be a Money Mule
Criminals are using the unprecedented national response to the coronavirus pandemic as an opportune moment to further their criminal behavior. To avoid being detected by law enforcement, criminals use money laundering techniques to conceal the identity, source, and destination of illicitly obtained money. Criminals often prey on unsuspecting individuals by creating elaborate stories to assume false identities to gain your trust by pretending to be an entrepreneur or a bachelor looking for romance.
“Money Mules” are individuals who transfer illegally obtained money on behalf of others using bank accounts, wire transfers, money orders, or checks.
The United States Secret Service, we would like to remind you to protect yourself and the nation:
- Never respond to an offer to earn quick and easy money.
- Never agree to receive and send money on behalf of others.
- Never share your bank account or personally identifiable information - PII.
- Never open a joint account with anyone other than close family.
Contact law enforcement or your local Secret Service Field Office if you suspect you were approached to become a money mule, or you have unknowingly become one. Money laundering is a crime, and so is being a money mule.
For more information read: Don’t Be a Mule
State Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Criminals are using stolen identities of U.S. citizens to open accounts and file fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance. Individuals who have had their identities abused in this way may have no knowledge that criminals have applied for benefits using their name; they may only discover that they have become a victim of this crime when they attempt to file an unemployment benefits application and or receive a notice that an unemployment claim has already been submitted in their name.
For more information read:
If you are a victim of identity theft or you unwillingly acted as a money mule, please contact your local Secret Service Field Office, and immediately notify the Department of Labor in the state in which your reside in, and notify the U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General.
U.S. Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
Our nation's small businesses are facing an unprecedented economic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic evolves, so do the criminal actors. Criminal actors are submitting fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. To further their dishonest methods, criminal actors solicit assistance by recruiting witting and unwitting individuals to accept criminal proceeds from diverted government funded programs through various social engineering tactics, like work from home employment, money mules, and or romance scams.
The Secret Service warns consumers to be cognizant of this threat and take the appropriate steps to remain vigilant and safe.
For more information read:
If you are a victim of identity theft or you unknowingly or unwillingly acted as a money mule, please contact your local Secret Service Field Office.
To report PPP/EDIL fraud or to find out additional information, please visit the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General.
Online Sales and Auction Fraud (Non-Delivery/Non-Payment/Phishing)
As citizens and businesses continue to purchase legitimate medical supplies during this pandemic, the Secret Service has witnessed criminal actors peddling fraudulent medical supplies and engaging in “non-delivery” scams. A non-delivery scam is when payment is sent for goods and/or services, but those goods or services are never delivered.
For more information read: Online Sales and Auction Fraud (Non-Delivery/Non-Payment/Phishing).
For more information or to report a COVID-19 related scam, please contact law enforcement and your local Secret Service Field Office.
U.S. Department of the Treasury Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks)
Know Your U.S. Treasury Check
Our "Know Your U.S. Treasury Check" campaign contains information that consumers and financial institutions can use to identify counterfeit U.S Treasury checks by knowing what to look for and where to look.
Quick Tips / Genuine Security Features:
- Treasury Seal – A new seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty. It should say “Bureau of the Fiscal Service,” and has replaced the old seal that said “Financial Management Service.”
- Bleeding Ink – the seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty, when moisture is applied to the black ink, will “run” and turn red.
- Watermark – All U.S. Treasury checks are printed on watermark paper. The watermark reads “U.S. TREASURY,” and is seen from both front and back when held up to a light source.
- Ultraviolet Overprinting – A protective ultraviolet (UV) pattern is invisible to the naked eye, consisting of lines of “FMS” bracketed by the FMS seal on the left and the U.S. Seal (eagle) on the right. As of 2013, a new ultraviolet patter was introduced into the check that says “FISCALSERVICE”. Either one of these UV patterns maybe be seen.
- Microprinting – is located on the back of the check with the words “USAUSAUSA.”
- U.S. Department of the Treasury's Inspector General for Tax Administration
- Internet Crime Complaint Center
- National Center for Disaster Fraud
- Internal Revenue Service
- Federal Trade Commission
- Federal Trade Commission Coronavirus Advice for Consumers
- Pandemic Response Accountability Committee
- U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General
- U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General
- Financial Crimes Enforcement Center
- Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation
- National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance
- Federal Communications Commission Coronavirus Scams - Consumer Resources
The Secret Service partnered with the United States Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to urge all Americans to be on the lookout for criminal fraud related to economic impact payments. Read more here: Economic Payments
To report a COVID-19 related scam, please contact your local Secret Service Field Office.