Be on the Lookout for Coronavirus Stimulus Scams

This post was written by James Talmage. James is a husband, father, small business owner, and super nerd, with degrees in Computer Science and Business Information Systems from Oakland University. He has developed multiple websites, including thetruesize.com, and written hundreds of thousands of lines of computer code. His company, JR Technical, has been providing physical security and technology improvements to metro Detroit businesses for 16 years.  You can find him on Twitter @jamestalmage, or get in contact via his companies website.
Many of us are desperate to receive the relief checks promised by Washington. Unfortunately, that desperation leaves many of us highly susceptible to manipulation by scammers. They know it, and I assure you, they are gearing up to take advantage of you. Be prepared for numerous scam attempts in the coming weeks. Be suspicious of everything.
If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and provided direct deposit information, you will not need to do anything to receive your payment. It will be deposited automatically.
If your address on file with the IRS is still correct, you do not need to do anything to receive your paper check. Any paper check you receive that says you need to call a number or visit a website before cashing is a scam. If the check is for an odd amount, it’s a scam.

If you have moved since you last filed a tax return, but have submitted a permanent change of address with the USPS, you likely don’t need to do anything. USPS shares change of address with the IRS (you probably received a note from the IRS shortly after moving telling you they were automatically updating your address). Regardless, you should not worry. Be exceedingly cautious, no matter how desperate you are for the money.

Sometime in mid-April, the IRS will open a new portal on IRS.gov. If, you still have not received your relief check, you will be able to use that portal to update your information. Do not click on links in emails asking you to update information. Type IRS.gov directly into your browser and find the appropriate link there.

Retirees who do not normally have to file a tax return will receive their checks or deposits automatically. Seniors should be especially careful during this time. Seniors are already the preferred target for scammers, and worry over their vulnerability to this virus will likely make them easier prey.

The IRS will not reach out to you via text, or email, or phone. It’s exceedingly unlikely that they will need to reach out to you via the postal service.

Anyone who says they can help speed up your payment by entering information on your behalf is a scammer.

The safest course of action is to just assume everything you receive on this is a scam. The vast majority of Americans will not need to do anything, for the rest, IRS.gov is the only place they will need to go.

Business owners should assume similar scams are in the works regarding small business stimulus. All relevant information on those programs are being communicated via SBA.gov. As with the IRS.gov recommendation above, SBA.gov should be considered the single source of truth on these programs, and business owners should ignore all texts, phone calls, and emails and mailers on the topic.

You can find the IRS warning here.

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