*Updated as of 1/5/2021
- More stimulus payments are on the way. Scammers are aware, too, which means another round of stimulus payment-related scams.
- Remember, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not text, email or call anyone about a stimulus payment. If someone receives an unsolicited message from someone claiming to be with the IRS, it is probably a scam. Consumers should contact the IRS directly to verify before they respond.
- Offers that require people to pay to receive a stimulus benefit or to use a service to get a payment faster are also signs of a stimulus payment scam.
- Consumers can track their new stimulus checks once they are sent. Then can visit the IRS “Get My Payment” page to follow their payments.
- To learn more about stimulus payment scams, the new stimulus payment or if someone suspects they are the victim of a stimulus scam, they can contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website.
New Stimulus Payments Approved by Lawmakers
Lawmakers have agreed on a new stimulus package, which includes a $600 stimulus payment for anyone who earns $75,000 or less. There is also a reduced payment for anyone who makes $75,000-$99,000. New stimulus checks mean more scams are on the way. With more stimulus payment fraud expected, consumers should know how to spot a scam and what to do if an identity criminal contacts them.
In the spring of 2020, the first batch of stimulus payments assisted Americans in need of financial relief due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Criminals took advantage of the situation by offering to help benefit recipients speed access to their stimulus funds. Criminals stole checks from nursing home residents, out of people’s mailboxes, and even from postal trucks. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has already seen some of those methods used to steal identity information and stimulus payments the second time around. The ITRC has also had a sharp rise in reported stolen stimulus payments and stimulus payment scams cases.
As of January 3, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged more than 298,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments totaling more than $253 million in losses. Two-thirds of the complaints involved fraud or identity theft. The median fraud loss per person is $324.
Possible Stimulus Payment Scams
Criminals have used different schemes to trick people, and they can be expected to do the same this time, too. Here are a few things for people to watch for that indicate that someone might be the target of a stimulus payment scam:
- Text messages and emails about stimulus payments – Criminals use text messages and emails to send malicious links in hopes that people will click on them to divulge personal information or insert malware onto someone’s device. If anyone receives a text message or email about a stimulus check or direct deposit with a link to click or a file to open, they should ignore it. It’s a scam because the IRS will not contact anyone unsolicited by text, email or phone to discuss a stimulus payment.
- Asked to verify financial information – The IRS will not call, text or email anyone to verify their information. If information needs to be confirmed, people will be directed to an IRS web page. This includes retirees who might not typically file a tax return.
- A fake check in the mail – Anyone who earns $75,000 or less will get $600 per dependent. People who make between $75,000-$99,000 will receive a reduced amount. Anyone who gets a check and has questions about the amount, or thinks the check seems suspicious, should contact the IRS.
- Offers for faster payments – Any claim offering payment faster through a third-party is a scam. All new stimulus checks will come from the IRS, and the IRS says there is no way to expedite a payment.
- Pay to get a check – No one has to pay to receive a stimulus check. New stimulus checks will be deposited directly into the same banking account used for previous stimulus payments or the most recent tax refund. If the IRS does not have someone’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the last known address on file at the IRS.
- Stolen checks – The ITRC has received numerous complaints from consumers about their stimulus checks being stolen. If anyone believes their payment is stolen, they should visit IDTheft.gov, where they can report, “Someone filed a Federal tax return – or claimed an economic stimulus payment – using my information.”
What to Do If You’re a Victim of Stimulus Payment Scams
If anyone believes their information may have been compromised or their stimulus payment was stolen, the IRS suggests people report it to the IRS and FTC simultaneously through IdentityTheft.gov. If anyone wants to learn more about stimulus payment scams or if someone believes they are the victim of a stimulus payment scam, they may also contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free. Consumers can call (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the website. People can go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.