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April 23, 2020

Coronavirus scam: Economic Impact Checks

With the Coronavirus Pandemic upon us, there is a lot to worry about these days, including the new ways scammers are using the economic impact checks/stimulus checks to trick people. 

Scammers don’t care that we have a global health crisis going on – nothing is off limits. They’re pitching fake Coronavirus vaccines, unproven cures, and bogus at-home testing kits. So, it doesn’t surprise us that scammers are exploiting individuals and adding confusion to the economic impact checks/stimulus check too. But it’s still shameful.

Most people who qualify for a check will automatically get it direct deposited by the IRS within weeks. But as details emerge about how and when payments will arrive, these scammers may start using official-looking fake checks to steal money and confuse people into turning over personal information. Here’s some information on these scams from the Assistant Director at the Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC.

The check’s not in the mail – yet.

Reports say that paper checks – for people without direct deposit – will start arriving in May at the earliest. So, if you get an economic impact payment, stimulus, or relief check before then, or you get a check when you’re expecting a direct deposit, it’s a scam.

The IRS will not send you an overpayment and make you send the money back in cash, gift cards, or through a money transfer

If you get an official-looking check for more than what you were expecting – say, for $3,000 – the next call you’re likely to get is from a scammer. They’ll tell you to keep your $1,200 payment, and return the rest by sending cash, gift cards, or money transfers. It’s a scam that will leave you owing money to your bank.

That’s not the IRS calling, texting, or emailing.

Scammers are sending official-looking messages – including postcards with a password to be used online to “access” or “verify” your payment or direct deposit information. The IRS will not contact you to collect your personal information or bank account. It’s a scam.

For trusted information and updates about IRS payments – including eligibility, how to sign up for direct deposit, or where to file a short tax form – always start with irs.gov/coronavirus. Report scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.