If you're among those anxiously awaiting your second COVID-19 economic relief payment (EIP), you have one more thing to worry about.
Scammers are trying to get their hands on your money before you do. These criminals also are trying to get you to help them do just that.
And the latest confusion about delivery of relief money to closed bank accounts could increase coronavirus relief scams.
Bad bank account problems: Up to 14 million taxpayers who used tax preparation software to file their returns last year and opted to get advances of their expected refunds on pre-paid debit cards are frustrated to find their second EIP amount won't be directly deposited.
When these filers' Internal Revenue Service refunds finally were issued in 2020, the government money went into accounts created by the software companies. After that transaction was completed, the bank accounts were closed.
But since the bank information was in the IRS data base, that's where the tax agency sent the second, $600-per-person COVID payments that were authorized at the end of last year. That meant the coronavirus-related direct deposits were bounced back to Uncle Sam.
The IRS says these affected taxpayers now must claim their money as a Recovery Rebate when they file their 2020 tax returns.
No COVID-19 EIP shortcuts: You can be sure that crooks are looking at this latest COVID financial relief twist as an opportunity.
Don't be surprised, if you haven't already been targeted, to get unsolicited offers — through phishing emails, phone calls, texts or on social media — from crooks saying they can help you get your slow-to-arrive federal funds more quickly.
The Better Business Bureau says scammers have been relentlessly using COVID-19 economic stimulus amounts to try and trick people.
Florida's Attorney General Ashley Moody nailed it when she noted that this latest round of federal financial has created an added avenue "for fraudsters trying to make a dishonest dollar."
Scam warning signs: While the relief money is the latest focus, the techniques being used largely are tried-and-unfortunately-true scams.
- The federal government does not require consumers to make a purchase in order to access a federal benefit or cash any federal check.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited messages. They could contain malware or take you to a fake website where the con artists will ask you to enter personal and financial information.
- If a messages or website are full of typos, incorrect spellings, grammatical errors or awkward phrasing, that's generally an indication that the message was sent by a scammer or the online page is a fake site.
- Do not trust the name and number listed on Caller ID. Crooks use spoofing technology to change phone displays to impersonate government agencies.
- Be wary of anyone who says they can expedite the availability of stimulus funds, especially if they request a fee for the "service." At best, this is a short-term, probably high-interest loan offer. At worst, it's an outright scam.
- Do not fall for demands from those who ask you to make upfront payments. Again, Uncle Sam doesn't demand such fees. And crooks who say they can help for a fee typically ask for the money to be sent via wire transfer, prepaid credit cards, crypto currency or gift cards. These kinds of payment requests are bright red scam flags.
Again, just ignore such solicitations and offers of so-called help.
Your best and safest, although not necessarily the most satisfactory, move is to go directly to the IRS to check your eligibility for or the status of your COVID-19 economic relief payment.
You also might find these items of interest:
- The latest COVID-19 risk? Scams to steal relief money
- Don't fall for these 4 common COVID-19 payment scams
- Watch out for continuing COVID-19 tax (and more) 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.