Date: April 9, 2020
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain warned the public today about potential scams relating to the upcoming coronavirus economic impact payments, commonly referred to as stimulus checks.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Under the CARES Act, millions of Americans will start to receive economic impact payments from the federal government in the upcoming weeks. In most cases, this one-time direct payment will be delivered by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individual taxpayers primarily through direct deposit. Despite safeguards in place to protect these payments, fraudsters will undoubtedly attempt to exploit the current situation to steal individuals' personal and financial information through a variety of ways, including phishing emails, social media, robocalls, and text messaging.
"It is paramount that we get this much-needed money safely into the hands of Americans in order to ease some of the pain from the pandemic," said U.S. Attorney McSwain. "The unfortunate reality is that no matter what is going on in the world, fraudsters will look for opportunities to steal. But anybody who tries to take advantage of the pandemic in this manner will feel the full weight of federal law enforcement."
"Unfortunately, there are fraudsters out there who will attempt to victimize vulnerable people during these trying times," said Michael Montanez, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Philadelphia Field Office. "Everyone should be wary of swindlers trying to steal their COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment, as well as crooked individuals trying to take advantage of the crisis by tricking people into unnecessarily turning over their personal, sensitive information. All Americans should be cautious in this regard and it is asked that everyone also be on the lookout for the interests of the elderly and other susceptible family members and friends."
Below are tips for how to spot and avoid scams:
What Fraudsters May Do:
- Ask taxpayers to sign over an economic impact payment.
- Ask by phone, email, text message, or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information for the purposes of expediting a person's economic impact payment.
- Mail taxpayers bogus checks with contact information (such as a phone number or web address) regarding how the taxpayer can cash the check.
How to Avoid Scams:
- Don't provide personal or financial information to strangers. Never provide an unknown individual with personal or financial information until you have verified the identity of the person with whom you are speaking.
- Don't open or click on unusual links or attachments. If you receive unexpected emails, text messages, or social media messages with attachments or website links, delete them. Do not click on, download, or open any of the above, as you may be opening malware on your electronic device that can help criminals steal your information.
- Checks are deposited automatically. Remember that in most cases, the IRS is using direct deposit to send the economic impact payments. Thus, if anyone is asking you for personal information in any manner, you should be wary and seek additional information to verify the person's identity and employment.
- There are no fees to receive payment. The government is not asking citizens to pay anything up front to receive an economic impact payment. If someone contacts you asking for any form of payment in order to receive an economic impact payment, please contact law enforcement.
If you or someone you know has been the target or victim of a fraud scheme related to the coronavirus, please report the incident to the national hotline at The National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.