Scam artists are hoping to cash in on your coronavirus stimulus check. You could say they are up to their old tricks by using a familiar twist: confusion. Because there’s so much confusion around the government’s stimulus check program, scammers hope to get people to give up their banking and personal information. There are a couple of ways scammers will try to do this.
The first batch of stimulus money was deposited into some people’s accounts. In the coming weeks, millions of Americans will receive their checks. There might even be a second stimulus check coming your way.
Scam artists are using fake-check scams, phone calls, text messages and email phishing scams to gain access to personal information. Some scammers will say they can process your stimulus payment for you. They will use your personal information to separate you from your stimulus payment.
“History has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need,” said Don Fort, the head of criminal investigations at the IRS. “While you are waiting to hear about your economic impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it,” he said.
Protecting yourself is essential.
According to the IRS and Federal Trade Commission, here are some things to know.
How To Avoid Coronavirus Stimulus Check Scams
No action is needed.
The vast majority of people don’t need to take any action to get their payments. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the economic impact payment to eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018, most seniors, and retirees. Do not pay anyone offering to get your stimulus money early or sell you additional stimulus checks. This is a promise they will be unable to fulfill.
Who is NOT eligible?
Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible for the payments.
Where to get info?
For trusted information and updates about IRS payments — including eligibility, how to sign up for direct deposit, or where to file a short tax form — start with the IRS website devoted to economic relief payments.
Checks are still being mailed.
Paper checks, for those without direct deposit, started arriving in May. If you got a relief check before then, or if you get a check when you’re expecting a direct deposit, it’s a scam.
Will the IRS send you an overpayment?
The IRS won’t send you an overpayment and make you send the money back in cash, gift cards or through a money transfer. Scammers may send an official-looking check for more than what you were expecting — $3,000, for example — and then call you. They’ll tell you to keep your $1,200 payment and return the rest. The fake-check scam will leave you owing money to the bank.
Will the IRS contact you?
The IRS won’t contact you — whether by phone call, text or email — to collect personal or bank account information. Hang up on calls related to stimulus payments. Don’t click on any hyperlinks or attachments in e-mails or texts related to the checks. The same goes for websites and social media.
Some scammers are sending official-looking messages, including postcards with a password to be used online to “access” or “verify” your payment or direct deposit information. Avoid these.
Is anyone getting early access to this money?
No one has early access to this money. Anyone that claims to have early access is a scammer.
It’s unfortunate that people have to deal with stimulus check scam artists. Scammers have always been around and look for opportunities like the stimulus check program. The best defense is always an offense. In this case that means staying alert, aware, and suspicious of anything that seems off to you. Use your best judgement and stay safe.
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