As part of the new Coronavirus relief bill signed into law Sunday, December 27, many Americans will soon start receiving economic impact payments from the federal government. Eligible taxpayers will automatically receive a payment of up to $600 for individuals and up to $600 for each qualifying child.
The economic impact payments, also referred to as stimulus payments, are intended to ignite the economy by providing consumers with spending money. When taxpayers spend this money, it helps boost consumption and drive revenue at retailers and manufacturers, thus stimulating the economy.
Payments will be made in the same way tax refunds were provided for 2019 returns, based on preferences indicated in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) portal used for round one of economic impact payments, or in the manner Social Security payments are received. Payments made via direct deposit will begin arriving as soon as January 4, 2021. Paper checks may arrive as soon as January 6, and prepaid cards will be mailed beginning January 4. Visit the Get My Payment portal at IRS.gov to learn the status of your payment.
With the release of these economic impact payments, scammers may use this opportunity to take advantage of people. 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 IRS will calculate your payment based on your 2019 tax return.
The IRS has what it needs to send you a payment. 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. 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 this 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. Be sure and check out the IRS Economic Impact Payments: What You Need to Know web page for updates regarding economic impact payment calculations, timing of payments, and more.