stimulus scams
Updated May 04, 2020

5 Stimulus Scams You Need to Watch Out For Right Now

COVID-19

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The world is so crazy right now, people are desperate, and they need cash fast.

Unfortunately in times like these, terrible people come out of the woodwork to prey on innocent people like you and me in a time of desperation and confusion.

And there is a lot of confusion right now.  I’ve been studying this stimulus stuff, and there are still a lot of questions yet to be answered by Treasury and the IRS, such as, and this is just a sample:

  • Is the IRS still going to send out paper checks or does everybody have to sign up for direct deposit if their direct deposit information wasn’t on their tax return?
  • Or if I’m on Social Security or I’m disabled and don’t file a tax return because I don’t have to, what should I do?  I’m getting mixed messages.  The bill said they would use Social Security Administration information, but the IRS came out this week and said you’ll have to file a simple tax return, but they didn’t tell us how to do it.
  • Or child support.  We know that being past due on child support precludes you from receiving this stimulus payment.  OK so if one spouse is behind on child support from a previous marriage, and the other isn’t, and they otherwise qualify for the full $2,400 stimulus, do they not get any of it, or do they get $1,200 of it?  It appears based on some language in the bill that half of the stimulus payment for a joint return is attributed to Spouse A and the other to Spouse B, but what that means in this situation hasn’t been confirmed by the IRS

So many questions, so few answers, and I expect guidance to come out from the IRS in the near future on these issues.

But right now I want to talk about these terrible, terrible stimulus scams that have been going around so you won’t be caught off guard and those you love won’t be caught off guard.

1. The Costco Scam

Yesterday the FBI’s San Diego office tweeted that scammers are telling people, via text or otherwise, that they are getting a “$100 bounty from Costco” as part of the stimulus program and asking for more information.

And who among us would not want a $100 bounty from Costco?

Only problem of course is that this is a lie, a complete scam.

$100 Costco bounties were not written into the stimulus bill.

2. Fake Checks

Basically, if you receive a supposed stimulus check in the mail right now, it is fake.

At best, these stimulus payments aren’t going out for weeks, and it’s still not clear if the IRS will be sending out paper checks at all or if they’re going to make everybody submit their direct deposit information if it’s not already on file.

After all, the IRS said this week, “In the coming weeks, we plan to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail.”

So any check you receive now, in the first week of April, is guaranteed to be fake.

3. Fake Texts

Right now some scammers are sending out texts saying that if you send $50 or $100 or some other amount to the person or “agency” who sent the text, you can receive your stimulus checks within 24 hours.

This is another lie.

There are some other crazy texts floating around right now as well, including one announcing that Trump approved over 22,000 iPhone 11s in the stimulus package and urging you to go to some website to claim yours.  I do not put the website here because I am sure that it is malicious.

4. Unscrupulous Accountants

So apparently some tax preparation services are contacting their clients telling them to pay them them, the tax preparer, money in order to have their stimulus check processed and printed.

This is horrible and gives upright wholesome accountants like me a bad name.

You don’t have to pay anyone to get your stimulus check, least of all some shady fly-by-night tax prep service.

5. Fake Social Media Messages

OK, so other scammers are sending messages or posting on social media with a link to an official-looking website asking you to enter your personal information or banking details to supposedly verify yourself and process your check, sometimes for a small “processing fee.”

This is bologna.  It is very easy to make a website these days; just because a website looks official or says treasury department or IRS or stimulus in the URL doesn’t mean it’s legitimate, and frankly, it’s probably not.

Here’s the truth.  As of today, the IRS has not yet released the web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, but the minute they do, I will be on here updating y’all and walking you through it, so be sure to subscribe.

Final Tips on Avoiding Stimulus Scams

So these are some of the most common stimulus scams, but as time goes by, I know that scammers will come up with others, so here are some tips for you to avoid stimulus scams:

  1. Remember that the IRS and other government agencies do not initiate communication directly with people directly through social media like Facebook.
  2. Remember that you don’t have to pay the IRS or any other government agency for this stimulus check, and there are no “processing fees.”
  3. Remember to always research the name of any organization or supposed agency that attempts to correspond with you regarding the stimulus check.  Google is your friend.  Google the return address on the envelope, Google the name of the party attempting to collect money from you, Google the phone number that called you, do your research, see what other people are saying about this, and you could save yourself from being scammed.

 

 

Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in July 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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