Scammers Are Coming for Your Stimulus Check. Here's What to Look Out For

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Don't be a victim. Find out how to avoid stimulus scams.

For months, desperate Americans have waited on a second stimulus check to follow the $1,200 payments they received under the CARES Act. And at long last, those stimulus payments are on their way. Granted, they won't be worth $1,200 this time around. Rather, they max out at $600 per eligible recipient, though that includes adults and dependent children.

If you've been hurt financially in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, you're no doubt desperately awaiting your stimulus payment. And if the IRS already has your bank account details on file, then you may even already have the money in your account. But if you haven't yet gotten your money, you'll need to wait for a check or debit card in the mail. That could make you vulnerable to winding up a scam victim.

Don't get robbed of your money

Just as scammers are already trying to trick people into paying to reserve a spot in line for a coronavirus vaccine, so too are they expected to come out in full force to rob recipients of stimulus cash. The IRS is warning the public to be vigilant.

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One scam that's already floating around is a text message scam. A criminal might send you a fake IRS text containing a link to click on to verify or accept your stimulus payment. That link, however, leads to a non-legitimate website where you're asked to enter personal data that could lead to a host of negative consequences, including identity theft and the loss of your stimulus cash.

If you receive this type of text message, the IRS asks that you take a screenshot and email it to the agency at [email protected], along with the date and time of the message and the number it came from. That way, the agency can investigate and attempt to nip those scams in the bud.

Of course, text messages aren't the only tool fraudsters use to rob people of their stimulus or other money. You may get an unsolicited email with a similar link, or even a phone call in which you're asked to confirm personal details like your bank account or Social Security number. The primary takeaway here: The IRS is not reaching out to people individually to have them verify information to complete their stimulus payments. Rather, those payments are distributed through an automated process. While you may wait several weeks for a check or debit card if the IRS doesn't have your bank account details on hand for direct deposit, there's nothing you need to do in the interim.

If you're contacted about your stimulus check by phone, text, email, or even regular mail, it's almost certainly not the IRS (unless you're looking at an actual check or debit card in the mail -- that's legit). If in doubt, don't respond to any communication -- instead, contact the IRS yourself. That way, you know it's really them.

Another important point: If you have elderly family members who are expecting a stimulus payday, warn them about the aforementioned scams. Unfortunately, older people are more likely to be targets of financial fraud, and a quick heads-up could spare someone you care about a world of pain.

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