Stimulus Checks Are Here—and So Are Scams: Here's How to Protect Your Finances

Stay smart and vigilant to protect your money.

Economic or financial distress may be on people’s minds as much as physical or social distancing and coronavirus concerns these days, but relief in the form of coronavirus stimulus checks is on the way—and so are scams looking to take advantage of people receiving those checks. Whether you’ve already received your stimulus check, you’re still waiting to receive one through direct deposit or the mail, or you don’t qualify for one, financial scams are on the rise, and you’re going to want to protect yourself and your finances.

First, use and trust only reputable sources to check on the status of your payment or to calculate how much you may receive. Disreputable websites and individuals may advertise trackers or calculators that ask for your personal information (think social security number or bank account info) in order to check on your payment. Always do a little research before sharing that info. For best results, try the IRS’s Get My Payment service or calculators or registration forms developed in partnership with the IRS, such as the TurboTax stimulus center.

Beyond the sites you use to get information about your stimulus check, beware calls and email phishing attempts about Coronavirus or COVID-19, which can lead to tax-related call and identity theft, according to a warning issued by the IRS.

“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,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in the statement.

During this uncertain time when many people are expecting money from the government, criminals will be trying to get the checks, as well, or otherwise get money as it’s distributed to taxpayers.

Remember that the IRS will not call you asking for confidential financial information. If you receive such a call, assume it is a scam and hang up immediately. (You can report suspected scams to the IRS here.) Your bank may call you about information related to your account, but it will not ask for confidential info such as your card PIN, access code, or online banking password; do not give out that information over the phone to any caller.

You may also receive texts, emails, or messages on social media asking for the verification of personal or banking information. Don’t click on any links they send or share any private information, and delete the messages. Some people may promise to get your stimulus check delivered more quickly if you give them information or part of the money: This is also likely a scam, as the IRS is the only organization capable of distributing stimulus money.

Watch what potential scammers say on the phone or in their messages. They may emphasize “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment,” but the official term used by the IRS is economic impact payment. Information from Chase on fraud prevention recommends that, if someone gets aggressive or attempts to intimidate you into sharing information by creating a sense of urgency or threatening to close or suspend your bank account, it may be a sign of a potential scam. Slow down, think about what they’re asking, and proceed with caution.

Beyond being cautious about sharing your information, keep an eye on your bank accounts. If hackers or scammers already have access to your accounts, they may choose now to use them, as they’ll know many people are receiving large checks. Chase recommends setting up fraud alerts, if you haven’t already, on all your bank accounts and making sure your contact information is current so you can be contacted quickly if there’s any suspicious activity.

Scams will happen, but you don’t have to fall for them. If you treat any messages or calls cautiously, use your best judgment, and pay attention, you won’t have to add dealing with the fallout of a scam or fraud attempt to your list of worries.

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