Nigerian scammers have created more than 50 fake U.S. government sites aiming to steal the identities of Americans hoping to get additional stimulus money, reports information-security firm DomainTools.
The websites have addresses such as "AmericanReliefPlan.com", "AmericaFundForStimulus.com" and "ReliefCareFunds.com". (A full list is in the DomainTools report.) These sites claim to be connected to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the legislation that President Joe Biden signed into law in March that created the third wave of stimulus checks.
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The law also provides for six months of advance payments for child tax credits in 2021. Almost everyone in the U.S. who has a child under 18 at home will get hundreds of dollars from the federal government every month between July and December.
In most cases, American parents and legal guardians don't need to do anything to get that money. The first round of checks and direct deposits went out July 15. But the U.S. government hasn't done the best job of making that clear, and people understandably have questions about how to sign up for the cash.
That's where the scammers jump in.
"Many relief recipients are unaware that this relief will be automatically assigned to them by the IRS," DomainTools senior security researcher Chad Anderson wrote in the company's report.
"Scammers are using this as an opportunity to collect Social Security numbers and driver's license photographs to use in identity theft."
The dangers of giving out personal information
The scam sites also ask for your mobile phone number, home address, date of birth and mother's maiden name, among other things.
Your mobile number can be used to reset online account passwords, and so can your mother's maiden name. Your address and date of birth, when combined with your full name and Social Security number, can be used to steal your identity.
DomainTools found that a legitimate web-design firm in Ibadan, western Nigeria, had registered the suspect domains by at least early June, as media attention began to focus on the American child-tax-credit advance payments. Anderson said DomainTools had tried to contact the web-design firm but had received no reply.
So if you come across a site claiming that you need to provide personal information to get child tax credits, be very suspicious. Only the IRS Child Tax Credit portal, which looks very boring and whose address ends in "irs.gov," should be asking for such information.
Once again, almost everyone who's eligible to receive child-tax-credit advance payments is automatically enrolled. Most people don't need to anything to get the money, and we have detailed guides for those who do.