Millions of Americans either have their coronavirus stimulus checks deposited in their bank accounts or are still waiting for paper checks in the mail. The $1,200 checks are meant for good and will help tax payers pay their bills and put food on the table for their families. Unfortunately, it also means scam artists are out there looking to con citizens.
The checks are part of the $2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last month. Most taxpayers who previously filed for their taxes with direct deposit information saw their checks added this week. There have been some glitches though, with complaints sprouting on social media about deposits going to the wrong back account or going to tax preparers, who then have to send the checks to their customers.
At the moment, there is no second stimulus check coming, which means Americans will have to be very selective about how they use the $1,200 check. However, House Democrats have proposed another stimulus package, called the Emergency Money for the People Act. This would provide up tp $2,000 per month for up to six months, according to Reps. Tim Ryan and Ro Khanna. However, this is only a proposal and would have to jump through hoops in Congress before it even reaches Trump's desk.
The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have released helpful information for consumers on how to avoid scams. Con artists usually come out for tax refunds, but this time they are targeting the stimulus checks. Here is a look at how scam artists are trying to take your money.
Fake Checks in the Mail
#IRS will NEVER demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Also, we don't call out of the blue about an unexpected refund. Here’s how to handle these scammers: https://t.co/D6ljuBHYuf #IRSTaxTip— IRS (@IRSnews) April 15, 2020
No one who will be receiving a physical stimulus check in the mail has gotten theirs yet. As the FTC notes, any mailing you receive that claims to look like a check is a scam. If a mailing looks like a check and you received your check through direct deposit, that would also be a scam. The mailed checks are not expected to start arriving until May.
The IRS Never Makes You Repay an Overpayment in Cash
The IRS does not ask taxpayers to send back an "overpayment" in cash, gift cards or money transfers. According to the FTC, this is a two-step scam. First, they would send you an "official-looking" check for more than you were expecting. Then, they will tell you to keep $1,200 and return the rest in another form. This kind of scam could end up with you owing your bank.
The IRS Never Calls, Texts or Emails
One common scam any time of year is someone calling pretending to be the IRS to get your personal information. Scammers also send out "official-looking" postcards with online passwords to websites, asking for your private information. The IRS is not going to contact you, notes the FTC.
The BBB told WKYT they have received reports from people who have been contacted through Facebook. No government agency is going to send you a Facebook message and ask for personal information. "We've heard of some of these scams pretending to be government agencies contacting people through instant messenger on Facebook," Heather Clary with the Better Business Bureau said. "The government does not contact you that way they do not call you that's going to be signs of a red flag that it's not the government contacting you."
Fake Economic Grants
The BBB also learned of a scam artist asking people to pay $200 for an "economic grant" that would help them during this time. "I spoke with one consumer who was asked to pay $200 in order to get that grant coming to her to assist her during this time she then knew it was a scam," Clary said. Clary warned that some scammers might steal the profile of a Facebook friend to get personal information by sharing links that claim to help you get your check.
"She was contacted over Facebook by one of her friends who had their account stolen she followed all the links and wound up sending $200 apiece saying she could get her government grant money, she just had to provide the numbers off the back of the gift cards," Clary explained. "All they did was steal the gift card money."
The IRS' 'Get My Payment' Website Is the Only Place You Can Track Your Payment0comments
On April 15, the IRS launched its "Get My Payment" website, which is the only official way to get information on where your stimulus check is. If you receive any text or email with a link that does not take you directly ro the real IRS website, it is a scam.
"To help protect against potential fraud, the tool also does not allow people to change bank account information already on file with the IRS," the IRS said. "The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. We urge taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers and email phishing attempts about the COVID-19 and Economic Impact Payments."