Stimulus Scams: Round 3

You may be looking forward to or have already received a third stimulus payment as part of the recently passed American Rescue Act. If you haven’t received the stimulus yet and are hoping or expecting to get a payment, you may be checking your bank account or mailbox for the money. Friends or family members may have already received theirs, and you may be wondering where your payment is. You might head to the internet to find out more information. Certain search results or other online communications may catch your eye. Be aware that online scammers see this third stimulus payment as a new opportunity to scam you.

You may have already seen social media posts, emails, or text messages that mention the stimulus. Some will appeal to your curiosity: “Click here to apply for your stimulus payment,” or “A large payment has been credited to your bank account.” Some may appeal to your fears: “If you haven’t received your stimulus payment yet, click here to confirm your mailing address is correct,” or “The IRS has blocked your stimulus payment.” Scammers will use any pretext they can think of to get you to click a link, open an attachment, or respond to a message with personal information.

Regardless of the message’s attempts to appeal to you, it’s safest to fall back on your phishing recognition techniques:

  1. Do you recognize the sender’s email address? Remember to look beyond the sender’s name field. Remember that scammers will use official government names in their spoofed domains to trick you. For example, irsgov dot net is NOT the IRS official domain.
  2. Was it expected? While you may be expecting a stimulus payment, consider any stimulus-related online correspondence unexpected unless you specifically took action to request information on an official government site.
  3. What is being requested? Try not to focus on the offer itself (e.g., expedited checks), but rather what you must provide to get the offer (e.g., your personal information, banking information, username or password, etc.).
  4. Verify the request. If you feel the request may be valid, verify it independently. To check on the status of your stimulus payment, visit the official IRS website at irs.gov. From there, click the Get My Payment button and follow the prompts. Be advised that you will have to enter your Social Security Number or Individual Tax Identification Number into the form.

Chances are high that any online communication regarding a stimulus payment, particularly one that requests that you take action, is a scam. Err on the side of caution when dealing with these and any other online requests!

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