We previously blogged about Covid19 scams related to the coronavirus (link to prior blog). Since then a new opportunity has arisen for scammers in the form of the stimulus passed by Congress. All taxpayers under a certain income level will get checks or direct deposits in the amount of $1200. Scammers want that money too, so here are some things you should know:
You don’t need to do anything. As long as you filed taxes for 2018 (or if you have already filed for 2019), the federal government likely has the information it needs to send you your money. While there was talk of people having to file a simple tax return in order to get a check, the latest information is that seniors will get a check even if they have not filed a tax return. See if you are eligible.
Do not give anyone your personal information to “sign-up” for your relief check to avoid Covid19 scams. There is nothing to sign up for. Anyone calling to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security number, PayPal account, or bank information is a scammer, plain and simple. Also be on the lookout for email phishing scams, where scammers pretend to be from the government and ask for your information as part of the “sign-up” process for the checks.
To set up direct deposit of your check, communicate only with the IRS. And you only need to do this if you didn’t give the IRS your bank information on your 2018 or 2109 tax return. In the coming weeks, the IRS will be setting up an online form available through the link above. But to avoid Covid19 scams, do not click anywhere else, and never in response to an email, text, or call.
No one has early access to this money. Anyone that claims to is a scammer. The timeline for this process is not exact, but it looks like funds will start going out in the next few weeks. Scammers are using the lack of detail to try and trick people into giving their personal information and money.
Watch out for Fake Checks. If you receive a stimulus check now-it’s a fraud. It will take the Treasury a few weeks to prepare and mail out the real checks. Plus the IRS seems to be considering foregoing paper checks altogether in favor of direct deposit. Watch out for checks in an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires you verify the check online or by calling a number.
There are reports that fraudsters are sending out messages via social media, and sometimes via text, that contain links asking a person to enter personal information or banking details. These messages claim the information is needed to receive your stimulus check. Just remember the IRS does not get in touch with you on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform.
Watch our for fake agencies-you might be directed to a fake website called the “US Emergency Grants Federation” or some other made up name. Often you will then be asked to provide your Social Security number. If you haven’t heard of the agency, do not assume it is real.
No processing fees! Another scam claims you can get additional money or get your money immediately if you share personal details and pay a “small” processing fee. There is no way to speed up the IRS payment process. The fee may just be a way to get access to your account information. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advance processing fee.
Watch out for correspondence claiming to be the Treasury department. The IRS will usually get in touch through US Mail. Be very leery of calls, emails, texts, or other forms of communication claiming to be from the government and offering grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards. Do not respond to those because they are scams.
Stay safe and be warned!