Ah, scammers. Sometimes you can’t help but admire their ingenuity. Within hours of the proposed economy stimulus bill going through, it seemed, scams started popping up to trick people into giving away their stimulus checks, identifying information, or both.
In these uncertain times, the addition of scams on top of our existing concerns about our health and finances is really almost too much to bear. But all it takes is having a little information and staying calm to keep scammers from ruining our day.
We want to help you stay informed. So you know what to look out for, the following are a few of the more common stimulus check scams currently in play:
Someone from the “IRS” Calls
The IRS will not call, text, send an email, or message you on social media to request information or to provide updates on the economic relief plan. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS or Treasury Department, you can assume right away that it’s a scam.
And be sure to note their verbiage. If someone calls and talks about a stimulus check, be wary. The official term is actually “economic impact payment.”
The (Fake) Check’s in the Mail
If you haven’t already received your payment, don’t expect it to come in the form of a paper check. The great majority of those eligible for a stimulus check will receive it via direct deposit, using bank account routing information provided with 2018 or 2019 tax returns. For those who have not filed taxes recently or whose bank account information has changed, an online portal is available to update that information.
Or, as was recently reported in Forbes, you may get a check in the mail with an odd amount, or one that requires you to call or go online to verify the check. Those are scams.
Verify Your SSN to Get Your Check
You will not need to verify your Social Security Number, bank account, or any other personal information to get your payment. The Treasury Department should already have all the information they need to make the deposit. Any phone call, email or text that says otherwise is a scam.
Stimulus Deals from Retailers
Scammers have started sending out fake texts and emails that appear to offer stimulus-related deals. For example, the FBI has reported a scam where people are getting texts from Costco. The texts imply a great “stimulus package” for those who click on the included link to supposedly fill out a survey. Instead, that link most likely permits the upload of malware that allows a hacker to steal your information.
Pay a Fee to Get Money Faster
The economic impact payments are technically free grants. Any request for a payment to get what is supposed to be free money should raise a red flag. The IRS does not request processing fees, nor will it promise to get you your money faster with a fee to expedite things. Your payment will get to you as soon as it can; there are no shortcuts to make things go faster.
How to Find Out the Truth
Rule number 1: never click on a link in a suspicious email or text. For real, up-to-date information on the stimulus plan and economic impact payments, go to https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus. That same page includes updated information on stimulus check scams. It should be able to help you to verify the authenticity of any stimulus check-related correspondence.
Or, you can see if you’re dealing with a scammer by doing your own research on the person or entity supposedly behind it. Start by conducting a people search on the person, and see if you can find information that can verify their identity. Do an online search on the company to see if it really exists and what its reputation is.
Probably the most important thing for you to remember about the stimulus checks is that, for the most part, you don’t have to do or verify anything to get them. Anyone who reaches out and claims otherwise is most likely trying to scam you.
Scammers rely on fear and panic to get people to fall for their schemes. By taking a beat and performing some due diligence before responding, you can better protect yourself and your identity. For more information about the coronavirus, or scams in general, be sure to read the PeopleFinders blog.