American taxpayers have received two stimulus checks over the last year, and scammers are still trying their best to get access to them. Experts are warning recipients to stay vigilant against these attacks — especially as tax season approaches. If you are receiving a belated stimulus check as part of your tax refund, now is the time to get acquainted with the most common scams you may see.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, about $211 million of the money sent to Americans in stimulus last year was lost on payment fraud, even as unemployment rates went up. Authorities worked to thwart those schemes and are hopeful that many can be avoided this time around. The second $600 payment may be smaller than the first payment of $1,200, but scammers will work just as hard to get their hands on it. Florida's attorney general, Ashley Moody, told CNBC that the second stimulus check created "the perfect storm for fraudsters trying to make a dishonest dollar."
"Scammers are always looking for new opportunities, like the passage of another round of federal stimulus, to rip off consumers," Moody added. Sadly, even a vigilant person can fall prey to a scam if they don't know what they're looking for. Here is a list of the most common stimulus scams going around right now.
The IRS won't call, text or email you.
Experts say that the Internal Revenue Service — and most other government agencies — will not reach out to American taxpayers by call, text or email over matters of money. Therefore, if you get a call or email from someone claiming to represent the IRS, chances are very high that it's a scam. Many scammers are using spoofing technology to obscure their own identities and impersonate the IRS, according to a blog post from the FTC's Jennifer Leach.
Leach wrote that government agencies "won't call, text, email or contact you on social media to ask for your Social Security, bank account or credit card number... Anyone who does is a scammer." Official correspondences from those agencies are most likely to come by mail, but there are other ways to verify their authenticity described below.prevnext
The IRS won't give you a time-sensitive ultimatum.
Another sign of a scam is the illusion of time-sensitivity — claims that you must provide information quickly or else you will lose your stimulus check altogether. Moody's office told CNBC that these "high-pressure tactics" are designed to limit your time for second-guessing.
In truth, if you are eligible for the stimulus check, there is plenty of time to claim it. Even if some kind of issue stops the IRS from sending it your way, you can claim the payment easily on your next tax filing with a form provided on the agency's website. Experts say any urgency in a conversation about your stimulus check is a big red flag of a scam.prevnext
Don't fall for fraudulent 'verification' messages.
Messages on just about every platform are now asking Americans to "verify" certain information — whether it's social security numbers, banking information or credit card numbers. Experts say that this is most likely a scam from someone who does not already have that information to "verify."
A common version of this scam is reportedly a convincing link asking you to "request benefit payments," according to the Better Business Bureau. The bureau's Scam Tracker has some examples of these kinds of messages to give users an idea of what they might look like.prevnext
Never pay a fee to access your stimulus check.
A common scam back in March promised users that their stimulus check would come faster if they paid a "processing fee" up front, but these too are scams. The FTC and BBB both found that there is no way for these scammers to speed up the process, so paying these fees is effectively giving money away.prevnext
Don't deposit a bogus 'stimulus' check.0comments
Another scam rising in prominence starts with a check made to look like a government payment sent to taxpayers. The scammer waits for an American to deposit the check, then contacts them pretending to be a government official, and says that the amount was incorrect. They then ask the individual for some banking information to take the check back, and the money-siphoning begins.
This kind of scam is particularly disarming because it seems that you have already received your money, but that is not the case .The US Treasury, working with the IRS, will either issue your stimulus check through direct deposit or mail you a check or EIP card. Just like with the first check, most people won't need to fill out an application or contact the IRS to get your second check. As always, experts say Americans should keep their eyes on the IRS' website for all official information on stimulus checks and coronavirus aid.prev