Better Business Bureau warns against COVID-19 stimulus check scams

Consumer Reports

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Better Business Bureau is warning against scams related to COVID-19 stimulus checks. The IRS just started sending stimulus checks to Americans this week, but scammers are already profiting.

“Obviously this is a very scary time for a lot of people so they’re using that COVID-19 coronavirus fears to get into peoples heads and make them think, maybe I do need to click on this. Maybe I do need to visit this website,” said Melanie McGovern, the communications director at the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York.

The BBB says scammers claiming to be the government are using text, emails, and social media to contact people. They ask for personal information claiming that this information will be used to help them get their stimulus checks sooner.

“The last thing anybody wants right now is to have their identity stolen. To have any of their accounts hacked so it’s really important to be vigilant,” said McGovern.

It’s important to note that the stimulus payments are automatic. No further action is needed for qualifying Americans who filed tax returns for either 2018 or 2019.

“You’re not going to get a call, text, or email about this. This is either going to end up in your account or in your mailbox,” said McGovern.

The BBB warns that the scams might attempt to redirect you to fake websites where you could be prompted to enter your information. The only website you should turn to if you’re worried about getting your stimulus check is IRS.gov .

The BBB says you are your own best advocate when it comes to protecting your money. McGovern says that you should be wary about anything that sounds too good to be true.

The BBB also suggests the following tips for economic impact payments:

  1. You must meet eligibility requirements to receive the payments. Tax filers who have adjusted gross income levels of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples will receive full payment. The payment is reduced on a sliding scale above that threshold. Individual with income above $99,000 or couples making above $198,000 with no children you will not be eligible.  
  2. Remember that payment or personal information is NOT required to receive your payment. The IRS has your tax information and will either mail the check directly to you, or will use the direct deposit information they have on file from your tax return.
  3. The government will not email or contact you regarding your payment. If you get a text, phone call, email, or social media invite that asks you for your personal information, do not respond. 
  4. The IRS will use tax return information to send the check to either your bank account or home address. If you filed in 2019, that information will be used. If you have not filed your 2019 return yet, 2018 filing information will be used. 
  5. If you receive Social Security and do not file a tax returnyou will not need to file a tax return or any other paperwork to receive the stimulus.  
  6. Contact your bank directly if there is a problem with your direct deposit or a hold on the stimulus check distribution.

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