Unemployment benefits and stimulus checks are a lifeline for many these days. But in some cases, those lifelines so important to help folks pay bills are being yanked away by crooks.
Just one day after their stimulus check deposited, Kristi Briggs and her husband got a call from their bank asking if she let a man cash a check for more than $460. She hadn't.
“And the strange thing was the check had an address where we hadn't lived at for six and a half years,” Briggs said. “And on the bottom where it's supposed to be signed, it was printed my husband's name."
Briggs claims it wasn't the only phony check written on their account.
“I feel violated,” she said. “So, out of $1,200 stimulus for his account, we had $997 taken out of it.”
United States Attorney Trent Shores said his office has seen this across the country.
“Individuals who are unscrupulous are engaging in identity theft and bank fraud in order to steal that money that's needed by hard-working Americans, that frankly, are going through a really tough time right now,” Shores said.
Briggs said this type of crime is especially sad for senior citizens who need to buy groceries and pay their bills.
The U.S. Attorney said now is the time to keep an eye on your bank account and be vigilant.
“They can do this in the blink of an eye, and you don't even know it's been happening to you until you get your bank statement at the end of the month,” Briggs said.
If you see something suspicious, like a payment you didn't make, immediately report it to your bank and law enforcement.
"The quicker that federal law enforcement and local law enforcement can identify an instance of scam or identity theft or a con, the quicker that we can act and hold that person accountable,” Shores said.
Penalties for these kinds of crimes that happened to the Briggs are tough. Criminals could face up to ten years in federal prison.
Shores adds it's also important to report these types of crimes to the National Centers for Disaster Fraud.
The center can be reached at 866-720-5721, or by email at disaster.leo.gov.
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