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How to avoid stimulus check fraud: Protect your payment and personal information

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Criminals could use the pandemic to take advantage of you. Here’s how to protect yourself. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Congressional Democrats and Republicans didn’t reach an agreement on the next stimulus package by Friday’s deadline, but that won’t stop fraudsters from using every trick in the book to use either the first or second stimulus check to try to bait you out of your money or sensitive personal details.

Scammers can take advantage of any vulnerability, including a public health crisis, to lure unsuspecting people into phishing scams and mobile malware traps. Hackers can even pose as government officials to present misinformation and trick people into downloading malicious items that put their credentials at risk. 

Here are some tips you can use to guard against scammers grabbing your economic stimulus payment — and what to do if you think you’ve been scammed. We’ve drawn from the IRS website‘s official guidance on avoiding economic impact payment schemes. This story updates frequently.

Knowledge is power: The second stimulus check has yet to be approved

Urgent messages about the next batch of stimulus checks are bogus. While they could potentially arrive as soon as a week after a bill is signed
, talks in Washington have stalled, endangering the chances of another stimulus proposal. Talks could resume Monday, with legislation is signed as early as Aug. 13. President Donald Trump could also move forward with executive action.

Stimulus check scams to look out for

If you’re asked to verify or provide financial information by phone, email or text to speed up the delivery of your payment. The IRS won’t call or email you to verify your information, according to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. Only use this IRS web page to submit information to the IRS.

If the person you’re talking to via text or email uses language other than “economic impact payment.” The IRS said that the official term is “economic impact payment,” and scammers will likely say “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment” instead. 

If you’re a retiree who doesn’t normally file a tax return and someone offers to submit information for you or claims you must verify information before getting your check. The IRS says no action is needed on the part of retirees to receive a stimulus check if they don’t normally file a tax return.

breaking-the-piggy-bank-stimulus-check-cash-money-savings-debt-personal-finance-066

Don’t let someone steal your stimulus payment. Learn all the warning signs.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If you get a bogus check in the mail. If the check is for an odd amount — specifically including cents — asking you to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it, the IRS says this is a scam. The IRS said it will first deposit the payment directly into your account and then mail you a check if that’s not possible. For the first round of stimulus checks, you didn’t need to fill out an application or contact the IRS in any way.

If someone says they can get you your payment faster. Anyone who asks to work on your behalf promising that they can get you money faster — in person or online — is a scam. In addition, the IRS says you also shouldn’t be asked to sign your check over to anyone else. 

Email attachments that promise special information about payments or refunds. Again, the IRS will not contact you by email or text message and links within these messages could be dangerous malware or phishing scams. 

If you’re told you have to pay to get your check. The IRS won’t ask you to deposit your check and then send them money. The IRS says that economic impact payments will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the most recent tax return that you filed for either 2018 or 2019. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the last known address on file.

http://www.cnet.com/


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What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

If — before or after a deal on the HEALS Act is reached — you think your personal information might’ve been compromised, the IRS suggests checking out IdentityTheft.gov. The site lets you report identity theft to the IRS and FTC simultaneously and develop a recovery plan. 

After checks are in the mail, you can check out the IRS’ Get My Payment page to keep track of your second stimulus check. Just tap the blue Get My Payment button to check the status of your economic impact payment.

For more resources, check out coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurance, what you can do if you’ve lost your job, what to know about evictions and late car payments, if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS and how to take control of your budget.



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