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Coronavirus scam attempts expected to increase with stimulus check disbursement

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Since the signing of the CARES Act on March 27, 2020, millions of Americans have been anxiously waiting to receive their economic impact payment (commonly referred to as stimulus checks) from the Internal Revenue Service. This is also the perfect storm for criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting people—especially those that are most in need—to scam people out of money.

 

Economic impact payment: what is it and am I eligible?

As a part of the $2 trillion economic relief package laid out by the CARES Act, economic impact payments are being sent out to provide monetary assistance to individuals who may be impacted by the coronavirus. Eligibility to receive this assistance has been determined by the IRS.

In general, if you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien with a valid Social Security Number (SSN) that cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return you may be eligible to receive payment. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Individuals with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will receive $1,200
  • Married couples with a combined adjusted gross income of $150,000 or less will receive $2,400
  • Individuals will receive a reduced payment if their adjusted gross income is between $75,000 and $99,000
  • Married couples will receive a reduced payment if their combined adjusted gross income is between $150,000 and $198,000
  • An additional $500 can be received for each dependent child
  • Eligible retirees and recipients of Social Security, Railroad Retirement, and disability or veterans’ benefits may also receive payment

For full information on eligibility and economic impact payments be sure to visit the IRS website.

 

Stay safe from fraudsters and their schemes

With the first round of payments sent out on April 15, many people who are eligible to receive payment will begin to see this money either directly deposited into their accounts or sent via check in the mail. There is no fee associated with these payments and in most cases, eligible taxpayers will not need to take any action to receive payment.

Amongst the uncertainty and fear the coronavirus has instilled, fraudsters are looking to capitalize on people’s vulnerability as large amounts of money are being sent out to provide relief. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • DO NOT give out any personal or financial information. Remember that banks and the IRS will never contact you via phone, email, text or social media asking you to verify or provide account information regarding economic impact payments.
  • The ONLY way to receive your economic impact payment is through the IRS. Fraudsters may try to contact you offering services promising that they can speed up or increase your payment for a fee.
  • Watch out for bogus checks that look official or for more than you were expecting. Often, fraudsters will ask you to take certain actions to cash it or request that you keep what you’re owed and send the rest back in cash, gift cards, or money transfers.

 

Additional Resources

IRS issues warning about Coronavirus-related scams

Federal Trade Commission: Avoid Coronavirus Scams

FDIC Consumer News: COVID-19 and Your Financial Health

American Bankers Association: Economic Impact Payment FAQ for Consumers