Coronavirus Payments: Be Wary of Scams

April 6, 2020

With many Americans looking forward to receiving coronavirus payments during a difficult financial time, the IRS is now warning of fraudulent phone calls and emails related to these funds. Scams are on the rise. Read the following FAQs to help protect yourself, your friends, and family–especially any senior citizens in your life.

Meanwhile, some financial experts say it might make sense to take advantage of free, weekly credit reports–available now through April 2021. (Previously, these free reports were only available once per year.) According to Forbes, the increased access is the result of a mutual decision between America’s three largest credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

economic impact payments for Americans affected by coronavirus

What are the scams surrounding coronavirus payments to citizens and families?

The IRS warns that taxpayers should watch for phone calls, emails, text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information. In some cases, scammers may offer to help you file for relief or speed up your application for government loan programs (e.g. the recently enacted CARES Act). Other scams involve requests for information about your tax returns. The scammer might demand personal financial data in order to secure your relief payment.

Do I need provide my financial/banking data to the government in order to get a check?

No. As per the IRS, the vast majority of people do not need to take any action. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the economic impact payment to those eligible. For people who have already filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS will use this information to calculate the payment amount. For those who have not yet filed their return for 2019, the IRS will use information from their 2018 tax filing to calculate the payment. The economic impact payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the return filed.

So I’m NOT getting a check in the mail?

Probably not. Most people will see the money directly deposited into their bank account.

What if the government doesn’t have my banking information?

Taxpayers who have previously filed but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS will be able to provide their banking information online through a newly designed secure portal on IRS.gov in mid-April. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file. Do not provide your direct deposit or other banking information to someone claiming they will input that data on your behalf.

I’m a senior. I don’t file a tax return. Will I still receive a payment from the government?

Retirees who are not normally required to file a tax return do not have to take any action to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees.

How can I spot a coronavirus payment scam?

According to the AARP, the following warning signs can help you identify a scam:

  • The caller or emailer uses the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment.” The term that government officials are using is “economic-impact payment.”
  • You’re asked to sign your check over to the caller.
  • You receive an email, text or social media message saying that you need to verify your personal and/or banking information to speed up your stimulus payment.
  • The individual offers to get you your payment faster.
  • You receive a fake check, and then the sender tells you to call a number to verify your personal information in order to cash it.

Who should I contact if I suspect I am being scammed?

If you receive any unsolicited information-gathering emails, texts or social media messages that appear to be from the IRS or an organization closely linked to the agency (e.g. the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System), you should forward them to phishing@irs.gov.

Taxpayers are also cautioned not to interact with potential scammers online or over the phone. Learn more about reporting suspected scams by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page at IRS.gov.