It is sad that this article has to be written, but the truth of the matter is that there are people out there just waiting to scam recipients of stimulus check money. As you know, the federal government began distributing stimulus money to U.S. citizens and legal residents in mid-April. The money is intended to help keep individuals and the economy going while we wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just as there are bad actors willing to scam people out of their tax refunds, there are those who would seek to steal stimulus payments. They are quite clever, too. The best scammers know how to pull the right strings in order to get people to unwittingly surrender their money. The IRS has issued a warning to all of us: beware of stimulus check scams.
Over Payment Scams
There is no telling just what form a stimulus check scam will take. Scammers are far too creative to be linked to just one or two means. The IRS and FTC has warned of three particular scams, beginning with the over payment scam. This scam involves sending consumers a fake check that looks like the real thing.
The check is for more than a recipient is legally eligible to receive. For example, an individual filing jointly will receive up to $1,200 if his adjusted gross income is $75,000 or less. The scammer might send a check for $1,500 with instructions to deposit the check and send the difference back in cash, gift cards, etc. This is an obvious scam. The IRS will not issue over payment checks.
Text Message Scams
The IRS claims to have already identified a number of text message scams as well. A typical scam of this sort relies on sending a message that includes a link. Recipients are encouraged to follow that link and enter bank information so that they can allegedly receive their money. The IRS does not operate that way.
Recipients who normally receive annual tax refunds through their bank accounts do not need to enter new bank information. The IRS already has it and will use it to send stimulus money. Recipients who normally receive paper refund checks can only provide the IRS with bank information by using the dedicated ‘Get My Payment’ tool. That tool is never activated through a text message on a phone.
Last but not least are phishing scams. They can take just about any form. The IRS cites one particular scam that involves sending recipients postcards with instructions to fill them out and submit them in order to receive funds. Of course, the postcards ask for sensitive personal information – including bank account information. Again, the IRS will never ask for information in such a loose and uncontrolled way.
Scammers might also launch phishing attacks through standard email. A victim might receive what appears to be an email that came directly from the IRS. In that email is a link to a fake website where, once again, recipients are asked to enter their personal information. Never click links contained in emails allegedly sent by the IRS. The IRS does not operate this way.
To summarize the whole thing, be on the lookout for stimulus check scams. They are out there. People who think nothing of stealing from others are lining up to get their hands on as much stimulus money as they can. They are ready and willing to scam anyone who is not paying attention. And for the record, keep an eye on family members and friends as well. Let them know to be on the lookout for scammers.