Every time there is a big change that impacts millions of people, you can bet that financial scams will surface to take advantage of the situation.
With the current lifestyle alterations impacting everyone across the globe due to COVID-19, con artists are pouring out of the woodwork to make a buck.
In the United States, we have seen several scams come to light since the stimulus package was approved by Congress.
Groups who pose these scams tend to prey on those who think they’ll take the bait, particularly elderly adults who aren’t familiar with navigating the new digital and communication systems (i.e. email, text, social media, direct deposits, etc.).
Below, we have listed a few scams that elderly adults (and really anyone over the age of 18) should watch out for in regards to your incoming stimulus checks and financial support from the government:
• Fake checks: A very legit-looking stimulus check shows up in your mailbox, claiming to be from the IRS. The scary ones are the checks that come with an online contact to verify the arrival of your check, which makes you give out private banking information in order to steal your money or identity.
• Email and social media messages regarding your check: The IRS is a bit old-fashioned and DOES NOT go out of its way to email or message people through texts or social media, so do not give out your banking information in response to these messages.
• Phone calls from agencies asking for your social security number: Never, under any circumstances, give out your social security number over the phone to persons claiming to be from the IRS. Once again, the IRS rarely makes efforts to call people individually.
• Fake calls from the “Treasury Department”: The IRS is, in fact, a bureau of the Treasury Department, and scammers will use this jargon to make you think that you’re talking to a legit representative.
• Communications asking to collect processing fees: So-called IRS agencies call, text, or email you about getting your stimulus check early if you are willing to provide banking information for them to collect a processing fee. It is what it is, and the IRS is sending out checks as fast as humanly possible without the option of a process fee to speed things along.
• IRS claiming to verify your tax return: A fake representative calls you to verify your latest tax return in order for you to get your stimulus check. Instead, they gain your private tax information in order to access your finances.
• IRS “agents” targeting retirees specifically: Since many retirees do not need to file tax returns, the real IRS asks them to do nothing but wait for the check. Instead, scammers make retirees believe that their supposed to submit paperwork with private information before getting their checks.
The IRS recommends keeping all sorts of warning signs in mind in order to avoid falling victim to these scams. Some include:
• Any communications asking for your personal information including names, addresses, phone numbers, bank account information, tax return information, and social security numbers.
• Agencies asking you to sign over your check to them in order to supposedly speed up the deposit.
• Agencies asking for extra money to process your check sooner.
• Emails and social media messages asking you to click on supposed IRS links to access your check.
If you would like to verify contact or report a scam, please go the official IRS website for contact information for your state (IRS.gov).
Report Phishing and Online Scams (2020). Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/report-phishing. Viewed on April 13, 2020.
Smith, L. (2020). CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECK SCAMS, FRAUD, IDENTITY THEFT WARNING: SAFETY TIPS FROM IRS AS MILLIONS AWAIT PAYMENT. NEWSWEEK. https://www.newsweek.com/coronavirus-stimulus-check-scams-fraud-identity-theft-warning-safety-tips-irs-millions-await-1497520.
5 Stimulus check scams that try to steal your money, identity, or both. (2020). Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/stimulus-check-scams-to-look-out-for-coronavirus-schemes-2020-3.