The Internal Revenue Service is making good progress in getting millions of COVID-19 economic relief payments to eligible individuals.
Most of the money so far has been directly deposited into recipients' bank accounts.
Some folks, however, will be getting old-school paper checks.
Paper check problems: This is a bit of a concern for two reasons.
First, as with tax refunds issued by check and snail mailed to taxpayers, there's always the possibility that crooks could steal the relief payments from their curbside mail boxes.
Second, some coronavirus crooks have created fake stimulus checks. This is latest variation of the bogus government payment scam that's been around for years.
In these instances, con artists send fake checks to their scam victims, advising them to quickly deposit the checks. Then the second part of the scam kicks in, with the crooks telling their prey that the checks are too large.
Since they got more than they were due, according to the crooks perpetrating this type of scam, the recipients of the fake checks need to send back part of the money. Yep, send the alleged excess back to the crooks who issued the worthless counterfeit checks.
It's easy to blame the victim, saying that they should know better, but some of the counterfeit checks are quite convincing. There have been cases where it's taken even banks weeks to discover that checks they accepted were not real.
Know your real government check: With so many folks eagerly awaiting their much-needed money and the COVID-19 paper payments providing a new opportunity for fake checks, Uncle Sam has called in the big guns. The U.S. Secret Service is getting involved.
This federal law enforcement agency, which operates under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security, is best known for its agents who protect U.S. presidents. However, Secret Service agents also investigate counterfeiting law violations, as well as a wide range of financial fraud, including financial document counterfeiting.
Because of its expertise in fighting counterfeiting, the Secret Service has joined the Treasury Department in a new "Know Your U.S. Treasury Check" campaign. This is an effort to make individuals, retailers and financial institutions aware of possibly fake COVID-19 checks and educate them on how they can protect themselves from becoming victims of counterfeit government checks.
The agencies have created a two-page PDF with more on the legitimate coronavirus checks. Here are six security features noted in that document that are found on all real Treasury checks and the COVID-19 economic relief payment (pictured above) in particular:
- Treasury Seal — This is a new seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty. It should say "Bureau of the Fiscal Service" and has replaced the old seal that said "Financial Management Service."
- Bleeding Ink — When moisture is applied to the seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty, the black ink will run and turn red.
- Watermark — All U.S. Treasury checks are printed on watermark paper. The watermark reads "U.S. TREASURY" and is seen from both front and back when held up to a light source.
- Ultraviolet Overprinting — A protective ultraviolet (UV) pattern is invisible to the naked eye, consisting of lines of "FMS" bracketed by the FMS seal on the left and the U.S. Seal (eagle) on the right. As of 2013, a new ultraviolet patter was introduced into the check that says "FISCALSERVICE." Either one of these UV patterns maybe be seen.
- Microprinting — This is located on the back of the check, showing the words "USAUSAUSA."
- Economic Impact Payment Notation — The COVID-19 payment checks will have a special note at the lower left side of the check, next to the Statue of Liberty image. It says "Economic Impact Payment President Donald J. Trump."
When you get your check in your curbside mail box, check it out using the Know Your U.S. Treasury Check guidelines. The only thing worse than having to wait for your coronavirus money is falling for a fake stimulus check scam.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Tax, other scammers take advantage of coronavirus fears
- TIGTA joins chorus warning of COVID-19 payment scams
- COVID payments are on the way. So are related tax scams
|Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we're focusing on just getting through these trying days.
But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here's hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.