As if COVID-19 wasn’t bad enough, some people are taking advantage of the current economic turmoil caused by the disease and using it to scam people.
The federal government recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities (CARES) Act into law to help stem the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak. For individuals, the CARES Act means most taxpayers will receive a relief check of up to $1,200 per individual or $2,400 per couple (plus $500 per qualifying child) as a supplement to lost income and to assist with expenses during this unprecedented time of economic shutdown.
While taxpayers eagerly wait to receive these stimulus checks, scammers are jumping at the chance to take advantage of vulnerable citizens. The Treasury Department has received reports of people getting phone calls, emails and texts asking for personal information or financial account information to help expedite the relief payments.
Officials warn that these attempts to get secure information are a hoax.
What To Look Out For
“If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal finance information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement. “These are scams.”
The U.S. government likely already has all the information it needs to process stimulus payments. In fact “the vast majority of people do not need to take any action,” according to IRS.gov. Anyone who has filed their 2019 tax returns has already provided the IRS with either a mailing address for a check or bank account information for a direct deposit.
For those who have not filed their 2019 taxes, yet, don’t worry. The IRS will use information from the filed 2018 tax return.
The only safe way to send your information to the Treasury Department beyond your tax return is to wait until a new “web-based portal” is created for people to submit their secure bank account information. Once that is done, people can receive payments immediately instead of waiting to get a check in the mail.
The bottom line to protect yourself from scammers: never give out personal information such as an address, social security number or banking account details. Also, you will never need to make a down payment or purchase anything in order to get the money you’re entitled to receive.
If you think you’ve been scammed or have received a fraudulent message, you’re urged to report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.