Here Is the One Thing All Stimulus Check Scams Have in Common

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its Criminal Investigation Division are alerting Americans to a wave of tax fraud and identity theft. These crimes are connected to the economic impact payments, or “stimulus checks,” being sent to people in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Scammers are always working to steal from unsuspecting victims. This is especially true when the potential victims are vulnerable and in need, as so many are during this crisis. Unfortunately, scammers also tend to target senior citizens.

For these reasons, it is very important to remain vigilant in watching out for criminals who are out to steal what is yours.

Read on to find out the one thing all stimulus check scams (and even most others scams) have in common.

What Are Economic Impact Payments?

In response to the unprecedented economic slowdown resulting from widespread stay-at-home orders and business closures, the federal government is providing direct payments to US citizens and resident aliens.

These “Economic Impact Payments” are reaching some people by direct deposit and others by paper check. The amount is $1200 per individual, plus $500 per dependent child, subject to certain limits on income.

Why the Concern About IRS-Related Scams?

Most people are fortunate enough not to have been the victim of tax fraud or identity theft. It may be easy for them to wonder what is the big deal about tax-related scams.

The truth is, there are always criminals using tax-related scams to steal people’s personal information, financial information and money. But when a program as big as the stimulus checks comes along, their efforts shift into overdrive.

There are many factors of the stimulus checks which all work to the advantage of scammers:

  • The universal nature of the payment program means virtually anyone is a ripe target for a scam.
  • Public appeal and interest in the program mean that everyone is keen to find out more information.
  • Worst of all, the depth of people’s need for these relief funds means they may let their guard down in the hopes of getting money faster.

There is every reason to believe fraud and identity theft will spike along with the economic impact payments. You need to be on the lookout.

What Are the Scammers Doing?

Identity theft and fraud rely on one thing: confidential information. Account numbers, birthdates, passwords, PINs, mother’s maiden names and the biggest one of all, the Social Security Number.

All scammers dealing in tax-related theft and fraud want to find out your information. They have many ways of exploiting that information — and just as many ways of stealing it. But they all need it.

How Do You Spot Scammers?

Criminals who try to steal your personal information will often impersonate an organization you transact with and trust, such as your bank or a government agency. In other cases, they will pose as a legitimate business offering you a product or service.

A scammer capitalizing on the stimulus check program might contact someone and claim to be a representative of the IRS or a private business. In exchange for some personal information and perhaps a payment, they could offer to facilitate your payment, accelerate it or even increase it.

Know this: The IRS will, in virtually all cases, initiate contact with you by mail only. Follow-up communications regarding an ongoing matter could come by telephone. The IRS will never initiate contact with you by phone, email, text message or social media.

What are some of the ways to spot a scammer?

  • Contacting you by phone, email, text message or social media for any reason.
  • Asking for personal or financial information by any of the above means, supposedly to expedite your payment.
  • Using unofficial terminology: “Stimulus check” and “stimulus payment” are unofficial shorthand. The official term used by the IRS is “economic impact payment.”
  • Offering to work to expedite your stimulus check payment if you provide personal information.
  • Mailing you what may look like an official check and asking you to verify your information by phone or online before cashing it.

What if I Think Someone Is Trying to Scam Me?

If you receive a suspicious email from someone claiming to be an IRS representative, do not reply to the message, open any attachments or click on any links. Instead, forward it to [email protected] and delete the email.

If you receive a suspicious phone call, do not provide any information. Report the call via email to [email protected] and include as much detailed information about the call as you can.

How Do I Get Legitimate Information About the Stimulus Checks?

The best information is straight from the source: the IRS’s online Economic Impact Payment Information Center. There, you can get answers to frequently asked questions, look up your payment status and more.

Your bank likely also has good information available. Look for links and notices posted to the home screen. Your local newspaper’s website may be another good source.

What Is the One Thing All Stimulus Check Scams Have in Common?

Have you figured it out yet? The one thing all stimulus check scams have in common?

Here it is: The scammer will come to you.

If you go online on your own, you might get information from the IRS, your bank or your local news outlet — all good options. The scammer cannot stand for this. Once informed, you are far less likely to fall for their schemes.

Criminals cannot afford to sit back and hope you come to them. In order to trick you and steal what is yours, they need to proactively contact you any way they can — by phone, email, text message, social media and other methods.

By getting accurate information straight from the source, you can beat them before they even try.

Hazen Law Group Is Here to Help

These days, the future seems a lot less clear than it used to. But you can still take steps now to plan for uncertainty and ensure a prosperous future. Call Hazen Law Group today to get started.