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Beware of these schemes, protect your wallet

There are likely to be more scams around stimulus checks and unemployment if Congress passes another stimulus package, but fraudsters are not waiting until then.

Job opportunities should not cost you

Federal unemployment benefits have expired, leaving many of us short on cash. The Federal Trade Commission is warning there are still schemers working hard. 

Please, please, please do not pay for job opportunities. You know work is hard to find right now. Guess who else knows it, too? Yes, schemers. They are happy to relieve you of your money and you get nothing but an empty wallet in return.

Get free mortgage help, don’t pay up front

Many are also facing possible foreclosure. Do not pay up front for mortgage help. It is illegal for companies to charge you before they help you with your mortgage, but schemers will for sure try. 

Instead, talk with your mortgage holder directly if you are behind on your payments. Explain your situation and see what options it can offer.

Real winners don’t pay to win

"Congrats! You won. Now pay us." 

It is always a scheme. We would all love to have no financial worries because we win a big prize, but if you are asked to pay a processing fee, taxes or shipping and handling charges, it is not a legitimate sweepstakes. Schemers want your personal information and, of course, your money. 

If someone says they are from Publishers Clearing House, be skeptical. It never notifies winners in advance. A real sweepstakes winner will not be asked for a fee to claim a prize, so do not give out your checking account or credit card number for a sweepstakes promotion. 

Do not send gift cards or money transfers. It is like sending cash and you are highly unlikely to get it back. Do not trust your caller ID. Scammers can copy any name or number to make a call look official.

There is no cost to you to get the next stimulus payment, if approved

We are all waiting, not very patiently, for a new stimulus plan. Congress has not finalized one yet. We do not know the amount or when, even if, it is coming. 

Until then, do not pay to get what some people call an economic impact payment. None exists right now. You will not have to pay to get the next stimulus payment, if Congress votes on one. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account or credit card number to send you the payment. It will work just like it did the first time. You will get money directly deposited, if you qualify for the stimulus payment. 

The government will use the account you put on your tax return. You could also get the payment by debit card or check. It will be mailed to the address you used for your taxes.