So now that federal stimulus checks have started to trickle in to bank accounts, authorities are warning the public to be wary of scammers trying to get personal information as part of a new federal stimulus payment scam.
For most Americans, the stimulus will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For those who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment through the mail.
Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or get you to “verify” your filing information in order to steal your money. Your personal information could then be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Because of this, everyone receiving a COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk.
Here’s information from the IRS and tips to spot a scam and understand how the COVID-19 related economic impact payments will be issued:
- The IRS will deposit your payment into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).
- The IRS will NOT call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do NOT give your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information to anyone – even if someone claims it’s necessary to get your check. It’s a scam.
- If you receive a call, do NOT engage with scammers, even if you want to tell them that you know it’s a scam. Just hang up.
- If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal identifying information or clicking on links, delete these texts and emails. Do NOT click on any links in those texts or emails.
- Reports are swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a scam. It will take the Treasury a few more weeks to mail out the COVID-19 economic impact payments. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a scam.
- Remember, the federal government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get a legitimate benefit. No fees. No charges. Anyone who asks for an up-front payment for a promised benefit is a scammer.
To report a COVID-19 fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling the NCDF Hotline at 866-720-5721 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit the IRS website.
FBI here or 804-261-1044.
To report fraudulent activity to the Virginia State Police, Virginians can contact the Virginia Fusion Center (VFC) at email@example.com
Below are some additional tips to avoid becoming a victim of a government imposter scam:
- Don’t give the caller any of your financial or other personal information– Never give out or confirm financial or other sensitive information, including your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you know exactly who you’re dealing with. Scammers can use your information to commit identity theft. If you get a call about a debt that may be legitimate — but you think the collector may not be — contact the company to which the caller claims you owe money to inquire about the call.
- Don’t trust a name or number– Scammers use official-sounding names, titles, and organizations to make you trust them. To make the call seem legitimate, scammers also use internet technology to disguise their area code or generate a fake name on caller ID. So even though it may look like they’re calling locally or somewhere in the United States, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
- Never wire money or send cash or a pre-paid card– These transactions are just like sending someone cash! Once your money is gone, you can’t trace it or get it back.
- Join the National Do Not Call Registry and don’t answer numbers you don’t know– This won’t stop scammers from calling but it should make you skeptical of calls you get from out of the blue. Most legitimate sales people generally honor the Do Not Call list. Scammers ignore it. Putting your number on the list helps to “screen” your calls for legitimacy and reduce the number of legitimate telemarketing calls you get.
If you think you have been a victim of a scam please reach out to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s Consumer Protection Section: