Don’t get scammed: Stimulus payments, mortgage/rent assistance, COVID treatments, etc.

Spotting a scam
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Special to The Dallas Examiner


Thieves use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. The Federal Trade Commission has offered the following advise to help people learn about recent scams, recognize the warning signs and avoid being scammed.


Scams in between stimulus packages



As of Aug. 17, Congress has not yet finalized a second stimulus package. While there are many unknowns, what is known are a few things about that scammers do when this kind of uncertainty is in the headlines.

If there’s another stimulus payment, no one has to pay to get it. Just like last time. Nobody will call to ask for a Social Security, bank account or credit card number. Expect any stimulus program to look a lot like the first one: people who qualify would get money direct deposited, or you’d get a debit card or check mailed to the address you use for your taxes. The details will follow, if a bill gets signed into law. In the meantime, don’t pay to get any economic impact payment, and keep personal information personal.

Don’t pay for job “opportunities.” Scammers know that lots of people need to find a job, and they’ll be happy to charge for what winds up being nothing. Scammers also pay for online ads, promising ways to earn money online. But do the research before signing up – and certainly before paying.

Never pay up front for mortgage help. In fact, it’s illegal for companies to charge you before they provide mortgage help – but that doesn’t stop scammers from trying. Anyone behind on mortgage should talk with their mortgage servicer right away about the options they might have. And whether owning or renting, it’s worth talking with a legal services organization for those who feel like things are taking a hard turn south toward foreclosure or eviction. They may be able to help figure out a solution.

If anyone spots one of these scams or any scam at all, Contact the Federal Trade Commission at


Sellers need proof for COVID treatment claims



As part of its ongoing efforts to protect consumers from sellers of scam COVID-19 treatments, the FTC has sent 20 more warning letters to companies that claim their products can prevent, treat or cure the COVID-19. Claims for zappers, virus-busting cards, sage, oregano, and bay leaves are among the representations called into question in the latest round of warning letters.

Like the hundreds of other warning letters, the FTC has sent to other companies, these letters require the sellers to notify the FTC within 48 hours of the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns. The FTC will follow up with companies that fail to make adequate corrections. The good news: in nearly all cases so far, those who get the letters have stopped making the false claims or selling the scam product or treatment.

When it comes to the fight against the Coronavirus, knowing the facts will help. Here are tips to follow and share with others:

  • Always talk with your doctor or another health care professional before you try any product claiming to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19.
  • Head to for clear and concise information on COVID-19. In addition, visit the FDA’s Resources page to find out about treatments in development.
  • Learn more about scams related to COVID-19 by visiting and subscribing to Consumer Alerts from the FTC.
  • If you find a product that claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19, report it to the FTC at


“You’ve won! Now pay us” is always a scam



During these difficult economic times, it is easy to imagine our financial problems disappearing by winning a big prize. Who wouldn’t like to win a million dollars, a new car or a vacation home? But if you get a call from someone saying, “You’ve won,” don’t believe it.

Here’s how it works. You get a call from someone who says they’re from Publishers Clearing House or some other well-known organization. They say, “Congratulations, you’ve won $1 million, a Mercedes-Benz and $7 thousand a week for life!” or some other amazing sounding prizes. Then they ask you to pay a processing fee, taxes or shipping and handling charges to claim your prize.

The scammers are trying to push you into a heightened emotional state, to knock you off balance just long enough to steal your money and personal information.

The fact is, Publishers Clearing House never notifies winners in advance. And anyone who says, “You’ve won. Now pay us,” is always scammer.

Consider these tips to avoid this scam:

  • Legitimate sweepstakes don’t make you pay a fee to get your prize. That includes paying “taxes,” “shipping and handling charges” or “processing fees.” There’s also no reason to give someone your checking account or credit card number in response to a sweepstakes promotion.
  • Don’t send money transfers or gift cards or give personal information. Sending money transfers or gift cards (or providing the gift card numbers) is like sending cash: once the money’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. The same goes for sending money by mail or using a money order.
  • Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. They might use an official-sounding name like Publishers Clearing House or Reader’s Digest.

Scammers don’t just scam one person. Tell your friends and family about the scam so they can avoid it. Then report it to


IRS sending $500 to people mistakenly denied money for dependent children


The IRS inadvertently failed to send parents $500 per qualifying child to tax filers who used the IRS’s non-filers tool before May 17 and claimed at least one qualifying child.

To correct this, the IRS is sending money to those people who were affected. Filers will not need to do anything to get their money. The IRS began making direct deposits on Aug. 5 and mailing checks and debit cards on Aug. 7. The status of a filer’s payment can be checked at

Those who used the non-filers tool after May 17 and claimed at least one qualifying child, their stimulus payment did include $500 per qualifying child.

The IRS won’t contact individuals about a payment. If someone does, it could be scam. Get the latest information about coronavirus scams at





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