The stimulus payment prompted crooks to take advantage of people in a pandemic – don’t let it happen to you.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused anxiety throughout the country and it isn't just about health – the financial crisis the virus has caused had provided a fertile breeding ground for scammers trying to exploit consumers. Learn what to look for to ensure that you keep your finances safe, before you become an innocent victim of a scam.
Who Qualifies for a Stimulus Payment?
First, let’s look at who qualifies for a stimulus payment.
- Anyone that filed a 2018/2019 tax return whose income is within the established limits
- Any retiree that receives Social Security income
- Anyone that receives disability pay
- Non-filers that weren’t required to file tax returns
What you Need to Get the Payment
Here’s where the scam artists get many people – many contact you with information that leads you to believe you have to do something to get your stimulus payment, which isn’t the case. Most people that file a tax return will see the funds in their accounts via direct deposit without doing anything.
Those that didn’t need to file taxes or that didn’t get a refund may have to provide their payment information. If you are a non-filer, you may have to provide a little more information, but you won’t know until you check your payment status on the IRS website.
How Scammers Get your Information
So how do scammers take advantage of those waiting for a stimulus payment? They prey on your vulnerability. They call or email you and ask for personal identifying information, ensuring you that it’s to get your payment faster. Remember, the IRS doesn’t call or email you for information. You must initiate contact with the IRS in order for them to ask you for information.
Signs that you could be taken by a scam include:
- A request for money to speed up the processing of your stimulus payment
- Asking for your social security number to verify your information
- Asking for your bank account information to deposit your check
- Requesting you to send the money back to them because it was an incorrect amount
- Sending unsolicited emails asking you to click on a link to claim your stimulus payment
- Posing as a charity to help those affected by COVID-19
If you did not initiate the call, don't give any personal information. Don’t click on any links in emails you receive, or provide information to someone that calls claiming to be from the IRS. These are all scams as the IRS won’t contact you for this reason. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a call or request for information, contact the IRS to find out if it’s true.
In general, only submit your private identifying information on www.irs.gov/coronavirus. That’s the only legitimate website that will ask for your information to verify your payment status. If you think you’ve been a victim of a coronavirus scam, contact the FTC right away.