Americans are beginning to receive stimulus check payments distributed by the IRS this week and paper checks will likely be mailed before the end of the month. Unfortunately, these payments are creating new opportunities for scammers to try to separate U.S. citizens from their money and/or their banking and personal information. In this blog, FineMark shares four ways to spot stimulus check scams and offers reminders for keeping your personal information private.
With the IRS set to begin distributing stimulus checks before the end of April 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that fraudsters aren’t waiting to implement scams designed to separate U.S. citizens from those payments.
In fact, the FTC has already received numerous complaints related to stimulus check fraud. Specifically, fraudsters are using the telephone, email and text messaging to impersonate government agencies, charities and businesses in their attempts to obtain banking and personal information from consumers.
Four Ways to Spot A Stimulus Check Scam
Each day seems to bring new information related to the coronavirus and U.S. government relief packages, making it easy for anyone to become a victim of fraud. To help protect our clients as they await their stimulus payments, FineMark has compiled a list of four ways to spot a stimulus check scam.
- Most Americans will receive their economic impact payment via direct deposit, using banking information the IRS already has on file from 2018 or 2019 tax return filings. However, having direct deposit isn’t necessary to receive payment. People who don’t have direct deposit will receive their checks via U.S. mail. If anyone contacts you via phone, email or text and offers to set up a direct deposit account for you, you’re being scammed.
- The IRS will never ask you to verify that you’ve received a check or confirm its amount. The IRS is calculating payouts based on taxpayers’ household adjusted gross income and number of children, as provided during the 2018 or 2019 tax filing process. If you receive a check that requires you to call a number to verify its amount or confirm that you’ve received payment, you’re being scammed.
- The IRS will never ask you for immediate payment of overdue taxes or threaten you in any way. In particular, they will never threaten to have you arrested if you do not pay overdue taxes immediately. If you receive a threatening phone call, email or text demanding immediate payment or threatening you with jail time, you’re being scammed.
- The IRS—and your bank—will never send a text or an email asking you to open an attachment or click on a link to obtain access to your stimulus check or other monies. While some banks do use voicemail, text and email messaging to alert customers to suspected fraudulent activities, a bank will NEVER ask for your account PIN, your full account number or your full Social Security Number. If anyone ever asks you for this private information, you’re being scammed.
Always Keep This Personal Information Private
The fiscal safety of our clients and their loved ones is of utmost importance to all of us at FineMark. Please remember:
- Banks and government agencies will NEVER contact you by phone, email or text and ask you for your personal or banking information. Why not? Because, as part of banking and federal processes, they will already have this information on file.
- NEVER give anyone these key pieces of personal information: a) Your full Social Security Number; b) your bank PIN; c) your full bank account number; and d) the 3-digit security code on the back of your credit or debit card.
What to Do If You Think You’ve Been Scammed
If you believe you’ve been a victim of a stimulus check scam, contact the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.
To file a report with the FTC as well, visit the FTC Complaint Assistant web page and select the “Rip-offs and Imposter Scams” category. Then, to report anyone pretending to be a well-known business or a government agency, select the “Imposter Scams” category. To report receipt of a fake or counterfeit check, select the “Fake Checks” category.
To report any concerns about fraudulent activity or suspicious phone calls, emails or text messages sent on behalf of FineMark, please contact us immediately. We’re here for you and are always happy to help!