COVID-19 Stimulus Payments: Protect Yourself from Scams

From Arthur Bartlett, director of the N.C. Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic:

WARNING: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning the public not to fall victim to a COVID-19 scam in which scammers are trying to intercept COVID-19 stimulus payments meant to provide financial support for Americans during the pandemic.

For most people, payments will be made as a direct deposit into their bank accounts, but some will receive a paper check.

Criminals and scammers may try and take advantage of you by having you:

  • Sign your Stimulus Check over to them.
  • “Verify” your filing information in order to receive your stimulus payment.
  • They may also try to obtain and use your personal information, including your Social Security Number, to file a false tax return to claim your stimulus payment.

Please know, the IRS will not call or email you to “verify” your payment details. Do not give out your personal information, like a bank account, debit account or PayPal account information to anyone claiming to be from the IRS.

If you do receive a call, do not engage with the scammers or thieves, just hang up.

If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them.

In addition, if you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud. It will take the Treasury Department a few weeks to distribute the payments.

Or if you receive a “check” for an odd amount or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.

Retirees have been highlighted as a group particularly vulnerable to scams. From the IRS:

“The IRS also reminds retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return that no action on their part is needed to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. Seniors should be especially careful during this period. The IRS reminds retirees – including recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 − that no one from the agency will be reaching out to them by phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment, also sometimes referred to as rebates or stimulus payments. The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees – no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive this.”

Read more about the warning issued by the IRS

Additionally, economic impact payments belong to the recipient, not nursing home or care facilities: “The payments are intended for the recipients, even if a nursing home or other facility or provider receives the person’s payment, either directly or indirectly by direct deposit or check. these payments do not count as a resource for purposes of determining eligibility for Medicaid and other federal programs for a period of 12 months from receipt. They also do not count as income in determining eligibility for these programs.”

We’re here to help: If you have any questions, please reach out to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s N.C. Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic by calling 704-376-1600 (Mecklenburg County), 800-438-1254 (Outside Mecklenburg County), 800-247-1931 (Linea de Español), or by submitting a contact form.