On Wednesday, April 15, 2020 80 million Americans received their Stimulus funds via direct deposit. As the COVID-19 Relief funds are arriving in the hands of Americans that need it most, scammers are working hard to make attempts to get their hands on this money. As the IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said, people need to take extra care during this period. Scammers are opportunists that historically take advantage of people when they are most vulnerable or in a state of need. The 2 trillion-dollar relief fund is a great place for them to go. The folks that are receiving relief from the Covid-19 Stimulus Package are generally more vulnerable than the average tax payer as it applies to individuals that make less than $75,000 year, a majority of whom are senior citizens and represent one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of fraud. It is important to become educated and to educate those around you about the scams that are out there to be able to avoid them properly. Below are examples of some of the most common signs of a scam and how to protect yourself against them.
- A call from the “IRS” asking for a “small payment to ensure they have the right account information” or someone asking for your account information outright. Do not give it to them. The information for the direct depositing of your payment is based off of the information you provided on your tax return. The IRS would not call you for this information. There is also no check to make sure they have the right account information by taking a small amount first.
- A fake check comes to you via mail. Then a sender calls you to verify your account information to “deposit it”. As mentioned already, the IRS would not do this.
- You’re asked by the scammer to sign over the funds to the caller and they will get the funds to you via a cashier’s check, deposit, etc. This seems obvious, but scammers can be very convincing about this being the only way for you to receive the funds.
- You receive an email or text about verifying account information. Once again, the IRS would not do this. Ignore them and report them if possible.
- Scammers contacting you to help you receive your payment faster. This is most pertinent to those that did not have a direct deposit on file and are expecting a check in the mail. As mentioned above, the IRS would not contact you for this reason. Ignore and report of possible.
Other helpful tips:
- The scammer uses the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment.” The term that government officials are using is “economic-impact payment.”
- Unsure if it is a real IRS Agent that called you? Ask for their Agent #, and say you will call back the IRS number and ask for them. 1-800-829-1040 is the toll-free number.
- To report scams, as mentioned above, you can forward an email you believe is fraudulent to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on reporting is available here: https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/report-phishing
- Unsure of where your payment is? Check here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment
- Don’t have to file a Tax Return but believe you are eligible? Go here to get your payment: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here