As many of you have heard, the president signed the CARES Act into law on Friday, March 27th. Because of this act, many Americans will soon be receiving checks from the government to assist through the financial hardship of this crisis. However, amid devastation caused by this virus, there are people out there trying to take advantage at a time of great vulnerability. Reports are already surfacing regarding scam phone calls, as well as reports of bogus checks that are circulating in the mail. We have specifics below to help as you protect yourself from scams of this nature:
- If you qualify for a stimulus check, you don’t have to sign up or provide information. If someone calls you requesting verification of your personal and/or banking information, it’s a scam.
- The IRS usually communicates using the mail. Not through phone calls, texts, or emails. If you receive any calls, emails, texts, or even social media communication of any kind like this from the IRS, it is a scam.
- There are no fees associated with receiving these checks. Some reports show that these scammers are stating that you can pay a fee in order to receive your check faster.
- If you receive a stimulus check in the mail now, be wary. It will take a few weeks for mailed checks to go out. If you receive a check reflecting a strange amount, specifically if there is change involved, then it’s a scam. If you receive a check that requires online verification or calling a number, it’s fake.
- The Better Business Bureau has also reported a scam where callers are stating that you could qualify for a COVID-19 grant. They request your identity information and, on occasion, claim that you could qualify for even more money from the government. Again, beware of calls, texts, emails, or social media correspondence regarding this.
- Other scams could come in the form of fake websites, phishing emails, or suspicious links via text. Never click suspicious links or respond to suspicious messages. Simply delete these messages should you receive any.
Remember, you automatically qualify for the stimulus check based on your income and the income-specific guidelines. If you provided direct deposit information on your 2018 or 2019 tax returns, your check will automatically deposit to your account. For those who did not provide direct deposit information on their tax returns, you will receive a check.
The IRS and Treasury Department stated that they are currently developing an online portal for you to provide your banking information so you can still receive direct deposit payments. At this time, no deadline has been set for this to be finished.
For those who receive government benefits (Social Security, VA, Railroad Retirement), you will receive your check in the way you normally receive your benefits, either by mail or by direct deposit. Originally, it was stated that those receiving government benefits would need to file a simple return. This has been recently revoked, so filing a return will not be necessary.