Nigerian scammers have created more than 50 fake US government websites aimed at stealing the identities of Americans in hopes of getting additional stimulus money, information security firm DomainTools reports.
The websites have addresses such as AmericanReliefPlan.com, AmericaFundForStimulus.com, and ReliefCareFunds.com. (A full list can be found in the DomainTools report.) These sites claim to be affiliated with the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the law President Joe Biden signed in March that triggered the third wave of stimulus checks.
The law also provides for a six-month advance payment for child tax credits for 2021. Almost everyone in the United States with a child under the age of 18 receives hundreds of federal dollars every month between July and December.
In most cases, American parents and guardians do not need to do anything to get this money. The first round of checks and direct deposits went out on July 15th. But the U.S. government hasn’t made that very clear, and people understandably have questions about how to sign up for the cash.
This is where the fraudsters step in.
“Many beneficiaries are unaware that this relief is automatically assigned to them by the IRS,” wrote Chad Anderson, senior security researcher at DomainTools, in the company’s report.
“Scammers use this as an opportunity to collect social security numbers and driver’s license photos for use in identity theft.”
The dangers of sharing personal information
The scam sites also ask for your cell phone number, home address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name, among other things.
Your cell phone number can be used to reset passwords for online accounts, as can your mother’s maiden name. Your address and date of birth, in combination 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 suspicious domains by early June at the latest, when media attention focused on US child tax credit advances. Anderson said DomainTools tried to contact the web design company but got no response.
So if you come across a website that claims that you must provide personal information in order to receive child tax credits, be very suspicious. Just the IRS Child Tax Credit Portalthat looks very boring and whose address ends in “irs.gov” should ask for such information.
Here, too, almost all persons who are entitled to a child tax credit are automatically enrolled. Most people don’t need anything to get the cash and we have detailed guides for those who do.