As with any public crisis, the spread of the coronavirus has created a new crop of hackers — targeting people who are awaiting their stimulus check, who are working from home and who are just trying to stay healthy. Be on the lookout for a surge of calls, texts, and email phishing attempts about the coronavirus, which can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft. Here’s some advice on what to watch out for.
‘Verifying’ scams and false tax returns. Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or get you to “verify” your filing information in order to steal your money. Your personal information could then be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme.
Fake checks. Bogus checks are being distributed. The USSS and the Treasury Department released a set of quick tips and genuine security features for people who want to check the legitimacy of checks mailed to them.
Real stimulus checks, according to the agencies, will include a “Treasury Seal” placed to the right of the Statue of Liberty on the check. It will say “Bureau of the Fiscal Service,” replacing an old seal, which would have read “Financial Management Service.”
That seal, according to the agencies, will show bleeding ink when moisture is applied, causing the black ink to “run” and turn red.
In addition, U.S. Treasury checks are printed on watermark paper, which will read “U.S. TREASURY” and can be seen from both the front and the back of the check when held up to a light. The check will also have a protective ultraviolet (UV) pattern, which is invisible to the naked eye. If put up to a UV light, an individual can expect to see the U.S. Seal of an eagle, or “FISCALSERVICE.”
Legitimate checks will also have microprinting on the back of the check with the words “USAUSAUSA.”
Finally, on the lower right side of the Statue of Liberty imprinted on the check will read: “Economic Impact Payment President Donald J. Trump.”
Coronavirus stimulus package scam warning signs. It can be difficult to distinguish the difference between a genuine email or message and a scam. Here are some of the key warning signs to look out for:
- Asking you to sign over their economic impact payment (stimulus) check to them.
- Asking by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
- Suggesting that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on your behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
- Mailing you a fake check, perhaps in an odd amount, then telling you to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
- Receiving texts or emails claiming you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links. Do not click on any links in those emails or texts.
While various IRS impersonation scams continue year-round, these cons are likely to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike. Be aware and stay up to date on all the information pertaining to your stimulus check, COVID-19 resources, and scams that are coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.