How to Not Be a Victim of a Stimulus Check Scam

Waiting on an economic impact payment from the Internal Revenue Service? You’re not alone. Millions have already seen the funds hit their bank account. Others still haven’t received the influx of cash they were promised by the federal government and are anxiously waiting.

Unfortunately, the critical state of the economy has created the ideal climate for fraudsters to take advantage of individuals who haven’t received their check. They know consumers are desperate and will do whatever it takes to make ends meet. This also means many are more vulnerable to scams that could cost them in the long-run. 

So, we’ve put together a useful list of tips to help you avoid falling victim to a stimulus check scam. But before we move forward, there are few things you should know about stimulus checks.

Most Americans will receive up to $1,200 for themselves and $500 per dependent child. The IRS will send the payment to the banking information they have on file from your 2019 or 2018 return. If they don’t have your banking information, you can use the Get My Payment tool to enter your MoneyLion Checking account information (Tap More on the Home screen in the app to find your account numbers) or wait for a paper check.

There’s also an option for non-filers to enter their banking information to receive stimulus proceeds by direct deposit. 

Quick note: SSI and disability recipients should not use this tool. They will automatically receive benefits in the account where their monthly benefits are deposited. 

Once the funds are disbursed, the IRS is sending out official notices to confirm the details of the payment and who to contact if the funds don’t arrive in your bank account. 

For additional guidance on economic impact payments, refer to this comprehensive resource from the IRS.

Tips to Avoid Falling Victim to a Stimulus Check Scam

1. Don’t pay to expedite your payment. 

The only way to receive your payment faster at this point is to enter your banking information in the IRS portals. If you receive an offer to have it expedited on your behalf, it’s an undercover ploy to retrieve your information and either get their hands on your stimulus payment, steal your identity or both. 

2. Don’t accept phone calls or texts from the IRS. 

If the IRS reaches out to you via phone or text regarding your stimulus payment, hang up the phone or ignore the text and block the number right away. Why would you do such a thing? It’s simple. The IRS won’t call you regarding your economic impact payment or any other payment for that matter. 

3. Mark all emails from the IRS as spam. 

The same rule applies to emails from the IRS. They’re fake, and there’s no need to respond to the scammer to “confirm” your identifying information. So, block the email address promptly to avoid falling victim to an identity theft scheme. You also don’t want your stimulus payment to land in the bank account or mailbox of a fraudster because you gave them your banking information or address, and they re-routed the payment for you.    

4. If you’re prompted to sign up to receive payment, don’t. 

Scam artists have set up systems to deceive consumers into believing they must sign up to receive a stimulus payment. That’s simply not true — these systems are designed to capture personal information that enables fraudsters to hijack your identity.   

5. Don’t verify your account information.

Upon entering your account information on IRS.gov, you won’t be able to modify it. But not all recipients are aware and may receive a bogus text message, email or postcard in the mail requesting that they log in to a random portal to confirm their routing and account number. Don’t fall for it unless you want money randomly floating out of your bank account. 

6. Check the status of your economic impact payment to confirm how much you’ll receive.

Scammers have gotten creative by issuing fake checks that appear to be from the IRS. These so-called payment amounts are for random amounts and may seem legitimate to individuals who aren’t in the know about stimulus payments. 

They include instructions on how to cash the check in the envelope. This usually entails calling a number to verify your identifying and banking information to move forward, and that’s where the fun stops.  The victim realizes it’s all a big fraud and the scammers are long gone with their information.

Even worse, they are left empty-handed with a fraudulent check and the stimulus payment they were set to receive may end up in the wrong hands. 

How to Deal with Stimulus Check Scammers

What’s the easiest way to deal with stimulus check scammers? Ignore them! The IRS also encourages you to report the incident by forwarding any correspondence to phishing@irs.gov