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Stimulus Checks Could Stimulate More Fraud

Stimulus Checks Could Stimulate More Fraud

04/14/2020

By: Chris McGorrill

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The first Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), as part of coronavirus tax relief efforts, are expected to hit the direct deposit accounts for 75 million people on April 15, 2020.  Additional electronic payments will be issued throughout April.

These payments are based on 2018 and 2019 tax filings. If you did not file for electronic returns for 2018 or 2019 filings, then you will not receive direct deposit payments via ACH. Instead, if you qualify, you will receive payment by check in the mail in the coming weeks.

While watching for your Economic Income Payment, also keep your eyes open for an increase of fraudulent calls and email phishing attempts.  "We urge people to take extra care during this period. The IRS isn't going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don't open them or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information."

The concern for fraud is not just limited to emails, and phone calls, but also text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information.

"History has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need," said IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort. "While you are waiting to hear about your economic impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division is working hard to find these scammers and shut them down, but in the meantime, we ask people to remain vigilant."

The IRS reminds taxpayers that scammers may:

  • Emphasize the words "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment." The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
  • Ask by phone, email, text, or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
  • Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer's behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
  • Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

Those who receive unsolicited emails, text messages, or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should forward it to [email protected].

Do not try to engage potential scammers online or on the phone. Learn more about reporting suspected scams by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page on IRS.gov.

Official IRS information about the COVID-19 pandemic and economic impact payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on IRS.gov. The page is updated quickly when new information is available.

Stay safe.  If something seems “phishy,” it probably is. Trust your instinct and be on the lookout for fraud.

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