The federal government is taking the unprecedented step of sending out stimulus checks to millions of Americans who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It's still working out the details, but you should receive your check in a couple of weeks if you're eligible for one. That money can do a lot for your household during this pandemic-induced recession, but only if you can hold onto it.
Scammers are taking advantage of the confusion surrounding the stimulus check distribution to secure as many people's Social Security Numbers and bank account numbers as possible. If they get hold of yours, they could rob you of more than just your stimulus check. Here are a few things you should know about your COVID-19 stimulus check and the thieves targeting it so you don't fall victim to one of these devastating scams.
You don't have to do anything to get your check
If you filed taxes for 2018 or 2019 or you're claiming Social Security or railroad retirement benefits, you don't have to do anything in order to receive your stimulus check. The government will automatically deposit it into the bank account it has on file if you've had taxes automatically withdrawn from your bank account before or had tax refunds or retirement benefits direct-deposited into your account.
If the government doesn't have a bank account on file for you, you can enter the account you'd like your stimulus check sent to in an online form on the IRS website. It hasn't created the form yet, but keep checking the IRS coronavirus tax relief page for updates. If the government is unable to obtain any bank account information for you, it will mail your check to the most recent address it has for you.
The IRS will never call you, email you, or send you anything in the mail asking you to provide your bank account number, Social Security Number, or other personal information. That's a sure sign of a scam. Do not respond.
Scammers might pose as IRS agents or bank representatives
If a scammer has targeted you, they may reach out pretending to be an IRS agent or a representative from your bank, asking you to verify your account information so you can receive your stimulus checks without a hitch. But really, they just want your information so they can access your bank account funds and transfer them to their own account.
They may try to pressure you to give up the information by saying they'll withhold your checks if you don't comply or threatening you in some other way, but don't give in. Make a note of the phone number or email the scammer used to contact you and any names, addresses, or websites the scammer provided you with. Report suspected scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your local police.
No one is getting their stimulus checks early
Some scammers are taking a different tack, claiming they have early access to the stimulus checks and can get you yours ahead of schedule if you only hand over your account information for the deposit. But don't believe them. No one has gotten their stimulus checks yet and there's no way to speed up the process.
If you have any questions about when you'll get your stimulus check or whether you have to do anything, like providing a bank account for direct deposit, refer to the IRS's coronavirus tax relief page linked above. The IRS is asking people not to call for updates on the stimulus checks at this time.
In the current climate, we all need to be a bit more careful with our money, and that includes being careful about who we trust with our personal information. The stimulus checks are a new thing for everyone and it's understandable to be a little confused, but don't let that confusion cloud your judgment. Keep checking the IRS website for updates on your stimulus check and don't respond to correspondence from any other source, no matter how legitimate it may seem.