Catch Of The Week: Stimulus Scams Are Back

By BECKY RUTHERFORD
Los Alamos

As we all eagerly await our second stimulus payments of $600 per eligible adult and child, keep in mind cyber-criminals are likewise excited. The next round of scams is already here. 

Good news – according to the IRS, payments are automatic for eligible taxpayers; those who filed a 2019 tax return, those who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn’t file a tax return. Retirees who do not file a tax return do not have to take any action to receive their stimulus checks. So you likely don’t have to do a thing, and you could see the payments in your account as early as this week if you used direct deposit previously. Otherwise, you likely will get a paper check. 

Bad news – the stimulus check scams are already showing up in innocent inboxes across America. These scams may come in via text messages, emails, or even telephone calls. The IRS and related government agencies will not be contacting you about the new round of stimulus checks. Uncle Sam doesn’t have time to reach out to you on this topic. Any unsolicited communications about the stimulus checks you receive via email, phone call, or text message are scams. Please disregard them. 

Did you know that it is quick and easy to spoof a phone number? In minutes a scammer can spoof a number, label it “The IRS”, and send out a wave of robocalls hoping to rope in some victims and fast cash. If you get a voicemail claiming to be from the “IRS”, do not call the number they leave. If you are concerned it may be legitimate, go to irs.gov and reach out to them via the phone numbers there. 

There are already scams via text and email asking users to “verify” their information by clicking a link.  You won’t verify anything for the IRS, but you will lose personal and financial information to a scammer if you do this.

Another scam popping up again offers to expedite your stimulus payments. Nothing will get the payments to you faster; this is just another scam. The crooks might claim they can expedite your payment and send the funds via wire transfer, credit, prepaid debit, or a gift card.

The FTC reported that $20.9 million in fraud occurred during the first round of stimulus checks related to scammers claiming they would send the payment via credit card, followed by debit card and cash app scams. The IRS will never, ever do this. You will get the money via direct deposit to the account you used in 2019 or via a paper check. 

Also, watch out for threats of penalties and losing the funds if “action is not taken now” this is just another scam. Counterfeit checks were an issue in the last round; if you get a paper check in the mail for an odd amount and something doesn’t look right, call the IRS to confirm.

You can check the status of your stimulus check here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment

The site is currently offline but should be up later this week. 

View any unsolicited communications about the stimulus payments as a scam; do not engage with the scammers. You can report scams to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov

Editor’s note: Becky Rutherford works in information technology at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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