PSA: Beware Of Economic-Impact Payment Scams

The recently passed CARES Act has the federal government handing trillions of dollars directly to Americans in response to the coronavirus pandemic which has crippled the economy and forced millions to apply for unemployment benefits. 

While the payments made by the US Treasury directly into the pockets of suffering Americans is very welcome, the scams sprouting up around the payments are not. If there is money involved, there will be scammers trying to take advantage of people, and officials have confirmed that exactly that is occurring now too. Thieves have been employing a variety of scams to get individuals, especially the most vulnerable, to give up their personal or financial information believing they are sharing the info with a government official. It is therefore crucial that citizens understand how the payments will be made and what to keep and eye out for.

Some Things To Be Aware Of

If you already have a 2018 or 2019 tax return on file and are eligible for a stimulus payment under the CARES Act, the IRS will deposit your payment directly into the bank account you listed on your return. S0cial Security recipients will automatically receive a stimulus payment the same way they receive monthly benefits, even if they didn’t file a return for 2018 or 2019. If you would like to add bank account information with the IRS for direct deposit, you may do so here. If not, a stimulus check will be mailed to the address you have on file with the IRS.

How To Spot A Scam

There are numerous ways in which a scammer can try to get you to divulge information. These are some of the things to keep an eye out for.

  • The IRS will never call you to determine if you are eligible for a check.
  • Do not give your banking information to strangers offering to help.
  • Do not open emails with phrases “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment”.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails or text messages requesting to verify your identity or banking information to speed up your stimulus payment.
  • Do not open file attachments from an untrusted or unknown source.
  • Hang up on anyone who calls asking for your personal information (the IRS already knows who you are).
  • If you receive a fake check and they ask you to call and verify your information first, it is a scam.
  • Be wary of “spoofed” phone numbers of caller ID pretending to be from your bank or credit card. Hang up.
  • Never give your banking PIN to anyone.
  • If you are skeptical, simply hang up or don’t respond.
  • Consider freezing your credit so scammers cannot open an account under your name. Unfreeze it later when you apply for a new loan or credit card.
  • NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pay for anything over the phone with gift cards.
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