Stimulus Update: Scammers on the Prowl for Outstanding Stimulus Funds

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  • The IRS will never cold call, email you, or text you.
  • Scammers are smooth. The goal is to con you out of personal information and steal your identity.
  • If a scammer fails to steal your identity, they will attempt to take your money.

Be wary anytime someone you don't know contacts you.

Scammers are the worst. Rather than take steps to earn money legitimately, they prey on unsuspecting people. And here's the thing about scammers: They're always there, waiting for the next opportunity to manipulate. They're like rats, hiding in a corner, waiting for someone to drop a piece of bread.

When the first stimulus checks went out in 2020, scammers had a heyday. They dedicated themselves to sending emails, making calls, texting, and otherwise reaching out to those due stimulus funds. Within months of the first checks hitting bank accounts, Americans had lost over $211 million to COVID-related scams.

Between rounds of stimulus checks, scammers slowed down. But now that the IRS believes that an estimated 9 million Americans have not received stimulus payments, you can bet those scammers will be back out in force.

If you or someone you love are among the 9 million due money, here are some of the more common red flags to be on the lookout for.

You receive unsolicited contact

Technology has made it easy for scammers to pretend to be someone else. In this case, they're likely to say they're from the IRS, Treasury Department, or your state unemployment benefits agency.

Your best move is to ignore any unsolicited contact. If you do happen to hear a message or open an email, do not engage. Rather, contact the agency the scammer claims to represent.

For example, if you receive a call or someone leaves a message claiming to be from the IRS, call the official IRS number (800-829-1040). Explain your situation to a customer service representative and ask if anyone from the IRS is actually trying to contact you.

The answer will undoubtedly be no. You may wonder why you would even want to call. If nothing else, it lets the IRS know that scammers are at it again.

Someone suddenly wants to be your best friend

If you engage with a scammer in any way, they will attempt to break down your defenses, to act like they're trying to do you a favor. The goal is to get your personal information.

For example, the person may tell you that your check has been returned. They'll explain that they're "double checking" your home address, bank account number, or Social Security number.

Once they have that information, they're off to the races and can easily steal your identity.

In the early days of stimulus payments, scammers sent emails and text messages. These messages encouraged recipients to click a link regarding stimulus payments. Once a person clicked the link, they were directed to a fake application. This unnecessary application asked for all kinds of private information, including Social Security number, address, and bank account numbers.

For a "small fee" we'll speed things up

In this scam, the crooks tell expectant recipients that for a small processing fee they can get stimulus money to them sooner. This scam works particularly well on those in need of the funds to cover living expenses.

However, there is no such thing as receiving early payment. What the scammer hopes is that enough people pay the fee to make it worth their time.

Scams are endless, limited only by a fraudster's imagination. For example, another move is to offer a "cash-advance" on the money. What the scammer fails to tell their victim is that they will be charged an astronomically high interest rate on the loan.

Scammers prey on our desire to trust others. It's up to you to protect yourself and any funds you may still be owed.

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