It’s that bit of good news amidst a lot of bad news around the novel coronavirus. As part of the $2 trillion stimulus package passed in March, the U.S. government may issue you a check for $1200, no strings attached. Most every American who has a valid social security number and earns less than $75,000 a year will receive a one-time payment. It’s a means to stimulate the economy and keep people financially afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
…and Bad News
But there’s a downside to the government’s generosity. By widely publicizing the checks and their delivery, the federal government didn’t just tell you they would be arriving soon. It also let criminals know what will soon be arriving in your bank account or mailbox. The Federal Trade Commission has already seen an uptick in fraud loss tied to the pandemic. Now scammers have new ways to get your money.
Find Out Where Your Stimulus Check Is
To find out whether or not your check has been issued, go to the GetMyPayment website. Click “Get My Payment,” fill out your social security number, date of birth, and address, and hit “continue.” You’ll then receive the status of your payment. The IRS will make the payment to you via the direct deposit account you’ve set up or the last available address they have for you. If you’ve moved or you feel the department has a wrong address for you, it’s up to you to correct it.
How Scammers Steal Your Stimulus Check
As old school as it may sound, one of the easiest ways for a criminal to get your check is to steal it directly from your mailbox. The payment is easy to spot, readily identifiable as from the U.S. Department of Treasury. Criminals take it, endorse, and find someone willing to cash it.
Once you know when your check is coming, you can be on the lookout for it. You can also set up an informed access account with the U.S. Postal Service to view a digital preview of incoming mail so you’re even better prepared to get it before a criminal does. If you’re genuinely concerned that someone might steal your mail, put a hold order on it and pick up your mail at your local post office.
If your identity has been stolen—even if you aren’t aware of it—someone could steal your check, using personal information they have on you. And if someone knows your social security number and birthdate, they could even divert your money to their bank account.
A lot of people who aren’t really that tech savvy have gone online during the pandemic to stay in touch with family and friends—and scammers have them on their radar. Don’t fall for stimulus check scams. Among the most common are email or text phishing. A criminal sends out a bunch of texts or emails, fishing for victims. They might pretend to be from the IRS or another government agency, asking you to confirm personal information. Don’t give it out. Don’t click on links in emails or social media posts. The real IRS will not contact you through text or email to ask you for your social security number. The payments will come automatically.
Also an old-school method, scammers may call you on your cellphone or land line. They will sound official. They may even have personal information about you that you think only the IRS would know. But you’d be surprised at how clever criminals can be—and how much you may have carelessly shared on social media. Especially during a time when scammers are busier than ever, be suspicious of anyone you don’t know who wants to talk about your stimulus check.
At Charter College, we know these are challenging times. You shouldn’t have to cope with even more stress by falling victim to a COVID-19 scam. Be wise and a little patient. If you’re entitled to the $1200 payment, it’s likely on its way.