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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > August 2020 > A COVID Twist to Common Scams

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A COVID Twist to Common Scams

Don’t let fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 make you fall victim to a scam. Thieves are on the prowl with scams relating to contact tracers, economic impact payments and used cars.

The imposter scam occurs when someone pretends to be from a government or law enforcement agency such as the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration. As a result of COVID-19, scammers are even impersonating contact tracers. Contact tracers work to identify and notify anyone who may have been in contact with a person recently diagnosed with COVID-19 so those individuals can quarantine and prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Contact tracers are employed by local and state health departments, universities and nonprofit organizations. Legitimate contact tracers will ask you who you have been in contact with and where you have traveled over the past two weeks. In Ohio, contract tracers will first reach out to you via a phone call.

Contact tracers will not:
  • Provide you with the name of the person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Ask you for your Social Security number or access to your bank account.
  • Tell you to download a tracing application.
Another version of the imposter scam involves a person impersonating a government agency issuing a payment, usually a tax refund or Social Security payment. The new version of this scam involves Economic Impact Payments (EIP), also referred to as stimulus checks. As a result of the CARES Act, the majority of Americans started to see some financial relief starting in April through EIPs issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Although the majority of eligible Americans have already received the payments, there are still scammers claiming to be able to provide payment. The IRS is the only reliable source of information about the timing of your payment. The status of your payment can be found at

The IRS will not:
  • Offer to “expedite” payment.
  • Send a link in an email or text message to receive payment.
  • Ask for your bank account or Social Security number.
One recent marketing ruse is the COVID-19 “Auto Stimulus” check promotional scam. The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that fake checks appearing to be from a fictitious Auto Stimulus program were circulating to lure consumers to used car sales. There is currently no stimulus program tied to auto purchasing. Here are some precautions to make sure you are not a victim of the scam:
  • If you receive a promotional flyer for an auto dealership, you can check the dealership’s status at
  • Do not click on any links in a message promoting the stimulus check; it could include malware designed to steal your personal information.
  • Do not pay for promoted vehicles with a gift card or wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods of scammers.
Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.