The arrival of $1,400 stimulus payments for many Americans this spring has provided much-needed help to struggling Americans. But it’s also drawn the attention of scammers, looking to steal that stimulus money.
There are several frequent scams that have been used when it comes to both the current stimulus and the one last year. Per CNBC, which cited the Federal Trade Commission, scams related to coronavirus and stimulus have victimized Americans to the tune of $211 million, with the FTC reporting more than 275,600 complains through 2020.
What are some of the more frequent scams used for stimulus payments?
It’s very common for scammers to make unsolicited phone calls, claiming to be the IRS or another government agency. Sometimes, the callers will ask for credit card information, which is not something that the real IRS or Treasury ever does, per CNBC.
Scammers will also sometimes ask for information to “verify” that it is accurate, which is more likely a way to steal personal information. Other times, a similar scam is attempted in the form of an email.
Also, scammers will sometimes use high-pressure tactics, demand payments right away, or promise that they can deliver a stimulus check more quickly.
There are also fake checks. In this scam, a recipient will receive a bogus check, and then a follow-up call, to “correct” the matter.
The U.S. PIRG Education Firm pointed out some other common scams. Another involves social media scams.
“The US government will never ask you for personal or financial information over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media. The Better Business Bureau has found a rising number of scams offering to pay medical bills for seniors, give out emergency grants, or deliver additional money. Each takes you to a phony website to steal valuable information from you.”
In some other instances, scammers will ask for the target’s Social Security number.
The PIRG page also notes that the government won’t ever use terms like "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment” when dealing with taxpayers; the official term for the payments is “economic impact payment.”
"The IRS has your information. If you pay your taxes, they have your social security number, they have your bank account number. So you shouldn't have to confirm any of that information," Melanie McGovern, communications director for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York, told TV station WGRZ.
Those who haven’t yet received their stimulus payment are invited to visit the IRS’ Get My Payment site.
It’s not clear if there will be a fourth round of stimulus checks, but some Senators are pushing for them to be included in the Biden infrastructure package.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.