Economic Impact Payment checks have started going out. If you qualify for a stimulus check and want to be sure you don’t lose it due to one simple mistake, read on.
For most Americans who qualify, their stimulus checks will be a direct deposit into their bank accounts, which started on April 11, and will go out in waves in the coming weeks. For the unbanked, or people who still prefer paper checks, the IRS will begin mailing checks at the end of April, but this process could take 20 weeks or more.
That’s the good news; the bad news is scammers have taken this opportunity of heightened uncertainty and confusion regarding the distribution of millions of stimulus checks, to do everything they can to take it from you. Here’s how:
- Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them.
- Scammers may use this as an opportunity to get you to “verify” your filing information in order to receive your money, using your personal information to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme.
“While much of the country is working from home, scammers and con artists are also working – on schemes to steal your money,” said the United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Criminals are taking advantage of the health emergency, so I urge everyone to heed the warnings to protect your personal information, your bank account, and anything potentially valuable to a fraudster. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute criminals, but we need everyone to be extra careful so they can avoid becoming a victim.” Source: irs.gov
Here is what you need to know to protect yourself:
Most taxpayers do not need to do anything to get their checks
As long as you filed taxes for 2018 and/or 2019, the federal government likely has the information it needs to send you your money. Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are otherwise not required to file a tax return also do not need to do anything to receive their money.
If you do not typically file a tax return, you can use the IRS’s “Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info Here” application to provide simple information so you can get your payment. Don’t forget to enter your bank account information so that your payment will be directly deposited in your bank account.
No one can help you gain early access to your stimulus money. Anyone that claims they can is a scammer.
As the distribution of stimulus checks will take many weeks, leaving people anxious as to when they will receive theirs, particularly when the funds are urgently needed, scammers are preying on this uncertainty to attempt to steal your check.
Scammers are exploiting the lack of detail on when you might receive your check to try to trick you into giving them your personal information so they can “help you” speed up when you get it. Don’t fall for it.
To find out the status of your check – The IRS is building a tool called “Get My Payment,” expected to be available mid-April. Once launched, you will be able to :
- Check your payment status
- Confirm your payment type: direct deposit or check
- Enter your bank account information for direct deposit if you do not have your direct deposit information and you haven’t sent your payment yet
The IRS will not send you an overpayment and make you send the money back in cash, gift cards, or through a money transfer.
If you get an official-looking check for more than what you were expecting–say, for $3,000–the next call you’re likely to get is from a scammer. They’ll tell you to keep your $1,200 payment and return the rest by sending cash, gift cards, or money transfers. It’s a scam that will leave you owing money to your bank.
If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.
That is not the IRS calling, texting, or emailing.
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. The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information – even if someone claims it is necessary to get your economic impact payment.
One common scam currently circulating the country has scammers posing as IRS employees who claim you owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If you refuse to cooperate, they then threaten you with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license.
Now with COVID-19, scammers may urge you to pay this fake tax “debt” with your economic impact check. For those who receive an actual check, they may ask you to endorse it and forward it to them for “payment of past debts.”
If you receive a call, do not engage with scammers or thieves. Just hang up. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Do not click on any links in those emails.
Banking Related Coronavirus Scams
Scammers from around the world are trying every trick in the book to capitalize on Coronavirus fears. Stealing your banking information, and then your money is one of them
These scams may come in a variety of forms, but they will generally try to impersonate your bank or credit union, sending you phishing emails with malicious links or attachments, calling you, social media posts, and text messaging to trick you into revealing sensitive banking related information
These messages may say things like, “Operations have been suspended. Please provide your debit card number and PIN to ensure you can continue to use your account.”
Here’s an example of the type of text messaging that is currently circulating:
Your bank will never contact you and ask for full card numbers, account numbers, or personal information, whether by text, email, or telephone call.
Always exercise due diligence when opening any email related to COVID-19 and be wary of social media ads, texts, or calls.
Coronavirus Mobile App Scams:
Scammers are creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information. Once your devise is compromised, they can steal your banking information and, subsequently, your money, including your Economic Impact payment.
Be wary of downloading Apps without verifying the source.
To get official updates and more information, visit the IRS’s page on economic impact payments. And if you come across a scammer trying to take your check, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.
Sources: IRS.gov | justice.gov | consumer.ftc.gov
The information provided in this article is being provided strictly as a courtesy and is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed or used as tax, financial, investment, or other professional advice. Finivi Inc. makes no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided. If you have questions regarding your financial situation, you should consult your tax professional, financial planner, or investment advisor.
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