Stimulus Checks: Some Landlords Illegally Spying on Tenants' Payout Status

Thousands of Americans have gotten their stimulus check from the U.S. government recently, and some landlords are reportedly looking out for the payments, hoping to collect rent during the coronavirus pandemic. The Economic Impact Payments are intended to help the American people afford food, medical supplies, housing and other essentials through this crisis. According to a report by Forbes, some of the ways landlords are watching for their tenants' payments to arrive are illegal.

The first round of economic impact payments went out via direct deposit on Wednesday. The IRS now promises that thousands more will be sent out by mail on Friday, April 24. Landlords are hoping that these checks — worth up to $1,200 — will go towards rent, and in some cases, they are waiting as eagerly as their tenants. Some have reportedly even begun using confidential information to sign in as their tenants on the IRS' Get My Payment app, looking to see if the checks have gone out already.

The Get My Payment app is meant to help Americans provide the IRS with banking information or a mailing address to receive their economic impact payment, and to check the status of that payment as it is processed. To sign in, one only needs their name, date of birth, street address and Social Security Number — information that many landlords have on file in their tenants' lease.

Some landlords have taken to using this confidential information to watch for their tenants to get paid, then demand overdue rent. On social media, some have shared screenshots of text message exchanges with their landlords, sparking outrage from legal experts. An Oregon resident named Austin Goodrich remarked on Facebook that the IRS has failed "to provide Americans with a secure system to check the status of stimulus payments."

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Others feel the same, calling on the authorities to penalize landlords who access this app with their tenants' information, and calling on the IRS to make the app more secure. Right now, the only addition security measure seems to be a screen notifying users that the Get My Payment app "is for authorized use only!"

Forbes advises tenants whose information has been breached in this way to consider filing a police report and contacting a lawyer to explore their options. To check the status of your economic impact payment, visit the IRS' website. For the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the CDC's website.