Coronavirus pandemic, stimulus checks can lead to increase in scams

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, May 6, 2020

By Shavonne Potts, Salisbury Post

As COVID-19 stimulus payments to individuals arrive, residents are encouraged to heed warnings from the Better Business Bureau and the IRS to avoid being the victim of a scam.

Anyone who receives a call that requires action to receive the federal government payment should be warned this is a scam, says the IRS. The agency says no calls will be made and in order to claim the payments. No action is required.

The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers via email, text messages or social media platforms to request personal or financial information, the agency says. If someone is contacted using these methods, these are telltale signs of a scam.

“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 IRS says scammers may say the following:

• 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.

The Better Business Bureau suggests if anyone contacts you to obtain personal information and then tries to keep you on the phone or rush you to a decision, hang up. Additionally, ask a trusted person, family member or financial advisor for advice.

The agency also advises if there is a problem with your direct deposit or it appears to be on hold on the distribution, then contact your bank directly.

For more about scams visit irs.gov/coronavirus and bbb.org/coronavirus for updates and other tips.