Most Americans will receive an economic impact payment from the federal government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Scammers are already looking for ways to trick you out of that money. Scams may be via phone call, email, text message, social media message, or mailed letter. Here are known scams to look out for—and a few tips to keep you from falling victim.
You don’t need to do anything to receive your check. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will calculate your payment based on your 2019 tax return. If you haven’t filed your 2019 return yet, the IRS will use the information from your 2018 tax filing.
Some seniors and others who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment. Information on how to do so will be available at IRS.gov/coronavirus.
The IRS has what it needs to send you a check. If you provided a bank account number on your most recent tax return, the money will automatically be deposited into that account. If you didn’t provide a bank account, you will receive your payment via a mailed check.
The IRS will not contact you asking you to verify your identity by providing personal information or confirm your account information. Do not give out personal information, such as your Social Security number, or payment information including bank account number, debit card PIN, debit or credit card information, PayPal, or Venmo account details.
To set up direct deposit, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus. The IRS plans to set up a web-based portal at IRS.gov/coronavirus where people can provide bank account information if they want to receive their stimulus by direct deposit. Only use that trusted site; never follow links in email, text, or social media messages claiming to be the IRS.
Ignore any messages asking you to verify your identity or confirm account information or payment details. The IRS won’t contact you asking that you submit your information.
You don’t have to “sign up” to get your money. There is no signup or enrollment for the federal stimulus. Any email, phone call, text message, social media message, or mailed letter requesting personal or account information is a scam.
There are also no special Coronavirus-related grants. According to the Treasury Department, anything claiming to offer a grant is a scam. “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.”
The government doesn’t use social media for direct communication. While the IRS uses social media to share information with the public, social media isn’t used to communicate personal or financial information. It’s easy for scammers to impersonate real people on social media. If you get an offer from a friend via social media message, call your friend to verify. When using social media to connect with the IRS, verify the accounts by going first to IRS.gov/socialmedia.
You don’t have to verify your mailed check. When you receive your check, there is no requirement to call a number or go online to confirm your identity or verify that you got the check. The IRS does have a free mobile app, IRS2Go, where taxpayers can check their refund status, pay taxes, find free tax help, watch IRS YouTube videos and get daily tax tips. The IRS2Go app is available from the Google Play Store for Android devices, or from the Apple App Store for Apple devices.
The bottom line? You don’t have to do anything to receive or use your stimulus money. And there are no shortcuts to get it.