Stimulus Checks: Information and Scam Warnings

As our Nation is dealing with the concerns of health and financial matters, there are those people who would rather find ways to take from others than to lend a hand.  With the US government about to send out stimulus assistance, scammers are already coming up with ways to try and get this money. It is important to stay vigilant to protect yourself and stay informed with information from trusted sources. As the stimulus aid starts to be disbursed, most people who qualify to receive a direct payment do not need to sign up, apply, or “verify” any personal information. The IRS is using direct deposit information it already has on file to deliver the money.

What if your direct deposit information has changed or you need to add it for the first time? According to The New York Times article   F.A.Q. on Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronavirus Plan , the I.R.S. said on its website that it would build a portal where people can update their information in the coming weeks. This same New York Times article has a very good resource of questions and answers regarding what to expect, who qualifies, and other information.

If you are receiving a paper check, it may take longer to receive yours.  For more information on that,  or other questions, the IRS has updates on its website.

In the meantime, the Better Business Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, and Treasury Department are warning people that scams are ramping up.

As described in the Business Insider article,  5 stimulus check scams that try to steal your money, identity, or both, here’s a list of five common scams around stimulus checks to look out for:

1. Fake checks

Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax lawyer and senior contributor for Forbes, wrote that rumors of people receiving fake stimulus checks are floating around. 

“If you receive a ‘stimulus check’ in the mail now, it’s a fraud — it will take the Treasury a few weeks to mail those out,” Phillips Erb wrote. As of now, the IRS seems to be forgoing paper checks all together in favor of direct deposit.

“If you receive a ‘stimulus check’ for an odd amount, or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud,” she said.

2. Social media messages asking for personal information

The Better Business Bureau says fraudsters are sending out messages via social media or text, that contain links asking a person to enter “personal information and/or banking details.” These messages claim the information is “necessary” to receive your stimulus check. 

Just remember: The US government — and especially the IRS — will never get in touch with you on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform.

3. A fake agency asking for your Social Security number

Another variation of the social media messages scam brings users to a fake website called the “US Emergency Grants Federation” and asks for your Social Security number to verify your eligibility, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists,” the Better Business Bureau site reads. “Find contact info on your own and call them to be sure the person you’ve heard from is legitimate.”

4. Claims that a ‘processing fee’ will get your money to you sooner

Yet another scam claims that you can get additional money or get your money immediately if you share personal details and “pay a small ‘processing fee.'” In reality, there’s no way to speed up the IRS payment process.

“If you have to pay money to claim a ‘free’ government grant, it is not really free,” the Better Business Bureau warns. “A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is”

5. Any correspondence claiming to be the IRS and/or Treasury Department

These agencies most often gets in touch with taxpayers via snail mail. In the case of the stimulus checks, the IRS is relying on direct deposit information provided on recent tax returns to send out payments.

“If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond. These are scams,” the Treasury Department warns on its website.  

The most important thing to remember is you are your own best defense.  Do not give out any personal information over the phone, text, email, internet, or in person. Information and updates are happening often so make sure you get your information from credible sites updated by credible sources.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the EEFCU and we will do our best to assist you. In the meantime, be healthy, informed, and safe