Scammers Want Your Relief Check
As part of the federal response to the coronavirus, the government is sending out relief checks to individuals. The FTC warns that scammers may be hoping to cash in on yours. Here are some things to know about the CARES Act relief checks and how to protect yourself against these scammers.
1. You don’t need to do anything.
As long as you filed taxes for 2018 and/or 2019, the federal government likely has the information it needs to send you your money. Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are otherwise not required to file a tax return also do not need to do anything to receive their money. If you have not filed taxes recently, you may need to submit a simple tax return to get your check. (More on who’s eligible.)
2. Do not give anyone your personal information to “sign-up” for your relief check.
There is nothing to sign up for. Anyone calling to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security number, PayPal account, or bank information is a scammer, plain and simple. Also be on the lookout for email phishing scams, where scammers pretend to be from the government and ask for your information as part of the “sign-up” process for the checks.
3. To set up direct deposit of your check, communicate only with the IRS.
You only need to do this if you did not give the IRS your bank information on your 2018 or 2019 return. In the coming weeks, the IRS will be setting up an online form available through irs.gov/coronavirus. The IRS will never ask for this information through an email, text, or call.
4. No one has early access to this money. Anyone that claims to is a scammer.
The timeline for this process is not exact, but it looks like funds will start going out around mid-April. Scammers are using the lack of detail to try to trick people into giving their personal information and money.
To get official updates and more information, visit the IRS’s page on economic impact payments. And if you come across a scammer trying to take your check, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.
5. The check is not in the mail - yet.
Reports say that paper checks – for people without direct deposit – will start arriving in May at the earliest. So, if you get an economic impact payment, stimulus, or relief check before then, or you get a check when you’re expecting a direct deposit, it’s a scam.
6. The IRS will not send you an overpayment and make you send the money back in cash, gift cards, or through a money transfer.
If you get an official-looking check for more than what you were expecting, the next call you’re likely to get is from a scammer. They’ll tell you to keep your $1,200 payment, and return the rest by sending cash, gift cards, or money transfers. It’s a scam that will leave you owing money to your bank.
7. That’s not the IRS calling, texting, or emailing.
Scammers are sending official-looking messages – including postcards with a password to be used online to “access” or “verify” your payment or direct deposit information. The IRS will not contact you to collect your personal information or bank account. It’s a scam.