Due to the coronavirus, many people are forced not to go to their jobs because they are considered non-essential workers. This is causing many to struggle to provide for their households and has led to unemployment applications increasing throughout the United States. Because of this, the government has agreed to give most working tax-paying adults $1,200 in stimulus checks for the inconvenience of having to shut businesses down to defeat this virus.
However, scammers are aware of the money people will be receiving and will go through any lengths to use that to their advantage. They have been creating stimulus check scams and schemes pretending to have the checks for people just to turn around and steal people’s hard-earned money. This is why it is important to know who is eligible for a stimulus check and how to get your stimulus check so that you won’t fall for these scams.
The scammer will call you pretending to be the IRS, and ask for your personal and financial information. They will claim they need this information to deposit the stimulus check into your account, and will also ask for a fee to deposit said check. In reality, they want your information so that they can pretend to be you and claim the check for themselves. They can also drain your bank account of your funds with this information and will keep the fee for themselves with no check, in return.
Scammers will pretend to be the IRS or federal government emailing you with fake “information” on how to get your stimulus check. They will also provide a link for you to click on so that you can provide them with your personal and financial information to get your so-called check. Once you click on the link, your device then gets plagued with malware and your information gets stolen. With this information, they can then either pretend to be you and steal your check or steal the funds from your bank account.
You will get a text from the “federal government” saying that you qualify for the government’s stimulus check. It will then provide you with a link that requests more information so that the government can provide you with this check. Once you click on the link, it will plague your mobile device with malware and the scammer will steal your information. They can then use this information to pretend to be you to get your stimulus check or drain your bank account of money.
Identity Theft Scams
If you haven’t received your stimulus check yet the official IRS website says otherwise, it could be possible that you are a victim of identity theft. This means that a scammer has found a way to steal your information, like your SSN, and has claimed your stimulus check for themselves. The scammer could’ve gotten your information in numerous ways, such as through an email, phone call, text, external link, etc. If you believe to have been a victim of this kind of fraud, you can report it here.
Google Search Scam
Scammers have created copies of the official IRS “Get My Payment” site, and have updated their search engine terms so that people can search for their sites easier on Google. Once a person finds their site, they think it’s the official IRS website and will enter their information. The scammers can then install malware on their devices and steal their information to obtain the victim’s stimulus check, or steal their bank account information.
Third-Party Stimulus Check Scams
Scammers have come up with their own stimulus check programs claiming that they can give you additional money along with the government. They will send you letters in the mail, put pamphlets on your car, or send you an email or social media message trying to advertise their program. This happened to a man in Florida who claimed to have gotten an official-looking check of $3,000 mailed to him with a letter. Another example of this is a Costco relief program, claiming to help with groceries and money during this time.
Knowing who will get the stimulus check and how is a beneficial way to know that you can prevent yourself from getting scammed. The IRS will not call you or tell you another way to get the stimulus check, only scammers will do so. The only official way of getting your stimulus check is listed below.
Who is Eligible to Get a Stimulus Check?
According to the FTC, adults who are U.S. citizens and meet the income requirements will be able to get the stimulus check.
The income requirements are:
$75,000 for those who filed single or married-filed-separately
$112,500 for head-of-household filers
$150,000 for married couples who filed joint returns
You also need to meet these requirements:
Taxpayers: Those who have filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019
Retirees: Those who have social security, railroad, or other benefits
Beneficiaries: Those who collect public benefits like SSDI, disability, or veterans’ benefits
Non-Filers: People who do not have to file a tax return, which includes those who have made no income or less than $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples)
How to Get Your Stimulus Check
In most cases, you won’t have to do anything to get your stimulus check. The IRS will use the same payment method that they have used to give you your money back for your tax return, Social Security, or retirement. For example, if you have received your government payment via direct deposit then that’s how you should also receive your stimulus check payment. You may also see it via a paper check if you don’t use direct deposit for government payments.
If you would like to receive your payment via direct deposit but the government doesn’t have your direct deposit information, you can request it by going on the IRS Coronavirus website and clicking Get My Payment. If you don’t usually file a tax return, you can also click that same link and go on the Non-Filer section to see what you can do to get your money. To check the status of your payment, go on that same website and go on the Get My Payment section to see where your stimulus check is.
Stimulus Check Scams Have Increased Fraudulent Site and Email Count
Since the stimulus check scams have started, there have been a total of 150,000 suspicious stimulus check sites created to fool people into giving scammers their information. According to Fortune, this has made the number of phishing scam sites spike up a whopping 235% during the coronavirus pandemic. Since the COVID-19 global pandemic, this is the biggest spike they have seen with phishing websites, showing how effective scammers have been in stealing their victims’ money.
This has happened because after scammers have created fake websites, they then make their websites searchable on Google and have sent their victims links via text message and email pretending to be the federal government. Because their websites look legit, victims then fall for it and allow for scammers to have access to their information. This makes the scammers more successful in their attempt to gain their victims’ funds.
Along with this, Google has also reported that it has blocked 18 million scam emails on a daily basis due to the amount of coronavirus fraudulent emails going out. All of these emails contain fraudulent links that people click on to reveal their personal data to scammers. This has made the coronavirus the biggest phishing email topic ever, according to Google tech firms.
Coronavirus and 2008 Stimulus Check Scams Are Similar
Back in 2008, America was also going through an economic crisis where most people needed the government’s assistance. This may differ from now since the stimulus checks now are due to a global pandemic rather than financial issues, but scammers have still found a way to take advantage of both situations.
For instance, with both stimulus check situations, we have seen fraudulent emails of scammers pretending to be the government. In the 2008 stimulus check scam, the emails said something like, “Obama is giving checks out to everyone,” and people would click the link to give out their information. In today’s stimulus check emails, we are seeing more fraudulent emails claiming that the IRS needs more information to send out our checks.
There have also been robocalls in both situations where scammers would pose as federal employees and request people’s personal information, claiming they need it to “send them stimulus checks.” However, scammers would instead take this information and use it to steal funds from their victims.
As you can see, the 2008 economic crisis and the coronavirus global pandemic may have been different, but the scams have remained the same. Scammers are still prying on people’s fears of the economy to steal their money since people are more emotionally vulnerable during hard times. People are more likely to believe scammers’ lies during these difficult times since they are desperate for their checks and will do everything they can to receive it quicker.
How to Prevent Yourself From These Types of Attacks
Don’t give out any personal information. The government has your personal information on file from when you filed your taxes. This means that your check will either be automatically deposited into your account or you will get it mailed to your house. If the “IRS” is claiming to need more information, then they aren’t really the IRS.
Don’t click on any suspicious links emailed or texted to you. Again, your check should come to you automatically once they are printed out and ready to go. You don’t need to click on a website to “verify” anything since the government already has your information.
Don’t go on any website to get your stimulus check. Unless it is an official “.gov” or “.ca” website and a news source is redirecting you there with accurate information, then it is probably a scam website trying to give a virus to your computer instead of your body. Either that, or they are trying to get you to provide personal information on this website, and as you’ve read with tip number one you should never do that.
Only believe in the stimulus check programs announced on the news. Like previously mentioned, if you didn’t hear the information directly from a news source then it is probably fake news. The government would not be hiding a secret agenda from you or its citizens when it comes to the stimulus check. They will send it to you automatically based on the information they have on you.
Don’t believe that the IRS is actually contacting you. The IRS or government will not contact you about the stimulus check, they will either just mail you the check or direct deposit it into your bank account.
For more information on how to get your stimulus check and if you are eligible, visit the legit IRS website to find out. If anyone has contacted you with fishy information and you feel like it’s one of many stimulus check scams, Social Catfish is here to help! If you have received anything suspicious from someone and know their name, phone number, email, or social media username you can reverse search it to find out if they are a legit person. You can also look up any images they sent you and see if the person in the picture is the same person you’ve been talking to.
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