The United States government issued several rounds of stimulus checks to help Americans through the economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. News of the money brought relief to those in need while simultaneously encouraging scammers to concoct new tricks.
What Is a Stimulus Check Scam?
Stimulus check scams fall into several main types. All aim to obtain a person’s details, and some try to get their victims to pay money for benefits that never come.
A significant number happen by phone. An analysis from caller identification company Hiya showed that there were more than 1.1 million scam calls about stimulus checks in June 2021 alone. That’s an all-time high.
However, some come by email, albeit less frequently. Stimulus check scams are so rampant that some state authorities warn people about them, too.
Here are the common types.
Identity Verification Claims
One of the most popular approaches has scammers asking people to verify their identities to expedite stimulus check processing or ensure the money goes to the right place.
However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) used information submitted directly by taxpayers on previously filed tax returns in most cases. Otherwise, the details came from the organization’s managed portal for non-filers.
Banking Information Requests
Another version of the scam centers on someone asking for your banking information. Criminals claim that giving them the details will result in you getting the payment within a day, rather than waiting the weeks it could take to arrive as a bank account deposit or physical check through the mail.
Third-Party Company Representative Imposters
People may also run stimulus check scams by posing as representatives from companies that can give debt forgiveness for a portion of someone’s check.
Dealing with debt poses challenges at any time, and especially during the pandemic. However, COVID-19 stimulus payments were ineligible for wage garnishment, giving some peace of mind for anyone worried about potential payment seizure.
How Can You Recognize and Report a Stimulus Check Scam?
When in desperate circumstances involving money, many people understandably disclose personal details without thinking through the consequences. However, there are several stimulus check red flags that indicate scams.
The IRS Doesn’t Communicate Through Email or Phone
The IRS released a statement reminding people that it does not contact people by phone or email. Communications come through the postal mail. Representatives will not get in touch via text message or social media.
Stimulus Checks Don’t Require Advance Taxpayer Funds
The IRS does not make people pay to receive their stimulus funds. Similarly, there is no legitimate method of accelerating when your payment arrives.
You Previously Provided Sufficient Information
The IRS took stimulus check details from tax returns or its non-filer portal. Services like TurboTax even let customers submit direct deposit specifics through those platforms. That means there’s no need to give more details to anyone who calls or emails you and requests any bank account numbers or information that enables committing identity theft.
How Can You Report a Stimulus Check Scam?
You may wonder if it’s possible to report a stimulus check scam or if doing so is even worth your time. The reporting methods vary depending on how the caller identifies themselves to you. Think about how the attempt impacted you when weighing up whether to proceed.
How to Report IRS Scams
If a caller says they’re an IRS representative, report the incident to email@example.com and put “IRS phone scam” in the subject line. You can also file a complaint with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which oversees IRS-related matters.
There is a dedicated form for providing details to that party.
How to Complain About Department of the Treasury Scams
Some less common scam calls come from people posing as representatives from the Department of the Treasury. Reporting one of those requires going through the Department’s Waste, Fraud, and Abuse division via an online form submission.
How to Report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC operates a fraud reporting site that takes people through a specialized portal. The organization shares those submissions with more than 3,000 law enforcement professionals. However, it does not resolve individual cases. Rather, the hope is that victims’ reports help bring down massive scams.
How to React to Identity Theft
If you know or suspect someone claimed a stimulus payment on your behalf, reporting it and beginning the recovery process starts at IdentityTheft.gov. It involves filing a form with the IRS to formally acknowledge the identity theft.
Steer Clear of Stimulus Scams
Scammers know that many Americans urgently need the money provided by the government’s stimulus checks. The desperation and eagerness combine to make some people provide private details without realizing the consequences. However, you first step towards battling these scams is through greater awareness of potential fraud.
Cybercrime has been booming during the pandemic. Here are just some of the most common COVID-19 cyber scams you need to watch out for.
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