The Internal Revenue Service has begun depositing stimulus checks electronically into bank accounts. If you’ve gotten yours, great. Now, guard that money, because scammers are eager to pick your pocket.
If you’re still waiting for your payment — or running into unverified offers or communications — healthy skepticism is your best friend. As of Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission had received more than 18,000 complaints related to COVID-19 this year, with consumers losing more than $13 million to fraud.
“As this deadly virus continues to impact every part of our lives, scammers are looking to take advantage of all the chaos,” said Kareem Carter, special agent in charge of criminal investigations for the IRS, in a press release from the Northern District of California U.S. Attorney’s Office. “They will prey on our hopes and fears to steal your money, your personal information, or both.”
Know the facts about your stimulus payment
If you have questions about whether you’ll get a payment and when, check the official IRS site .
Payments started rolling out this week with electronic funds transfers for consumers with bank account information on file with the IRS or federal benefits systems. Look for a deposit labeled “US TREAS 310 – TAX REF.”
Paper checks for those without direct deposit information will start going out April 20. If you have already received a paper check or receive one before then, that’s a scam, the FTC says.
It warns that criminals may send official-looking checks for more than the stimulus amount of up to $1,200 for eligible adults and $500 per qualifying child. They then contact recipients and say they must transfer money or send prepaid debit cards to repay the overage.
The FTC emphasizes that the IRS will not:
What the IRS will do is send a letter, via postal mail, 15 days after your payment is made, giving details and how to report failure to receive payment. Its website advises: “If a taxpayer is unsure they’re receiving a legitimate letter, the IRS urges taxpayers to visit IRS.gov first to protect against scam artists.”
Watch out for other scams
Fraudsters are busy trying other ways to get your money or sensitive information. Here’s what to look out for:
You can report scams online at ftc.gov/complaint.
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Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.