Due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has issued three rounds of stimulus payments to Americans since the beginning of 2020.
A viewer sent VERIFY a screenshot of a text message that read, “We are pleased to inform you that your information was randomly picked up for COVID-19 stimulus payment.” But in order to get that payment, the text asked the viewer to “kindly follow the link to complete the form.” The shortened URL took the viewer to a “.wixsite.com” link with grammatical errors on the website.
The viewer asked VERIFY to confirm if it was legitimate or not.
Is the U.S. government texting randomly selected people about COVID-19 stimulus payments?
No, the U.S. government is not sending anyone unsolicited text messages about COVID-19 stimulus payments. Those text messages are scams the IRS says are on the rise.
WHAT WE FOUND
The IRS stated in an Aug. 30 news release that it had received a record number of COVID-19 stimulus payment scam reports in June and July 2021. The IRS website shows an example of one such scam, sent over a text message and urging the recipient to complete a form on an included link.
The IRS says it does not send unsolicited texts or emails. It will not threaten individuals with jail time or lawsuits, and it will not demand tax payments on gift cards or via cryptocurrency.
“Taxpayers should be on the lookout for grammatical, capitalization and spelling errors in emails and texts, which serve as fraud indicators,” the IRS warns. “Taxpayers should also exercise caution when clicking shortened URLs, which can lead to fraudulent web pages.”
No government agency will call, text or email individuals asking for money or personal information, the FTC says on a website about government impersonator scams. The FTC also warns people to not trust their caller ID because it can be spoofed and to never click on links in unexpected emails or text messages.
The FTC says sometimes scams will use fake agency names or fake officials, making them easy to detect after a quick Google search. It’s also good to keep in mind that all government websites have URLs ending in “.gov” in case you do mistakenly click on an unknown link.
COVID-19 stimulus payment scams have been on the FTC’s radar since April 2020. The FTC then reminded people that if a person needed to update any information at all to receive their checks, they should do so directly through the IRS’s website.
The IRS says people can report COVID-19 stimulus scams by forwarding messages to firstname.lastname@example.org. A taxpayer who has fallen victim to a scam used to steal their COVID-19 stimulus payment can report it online to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV.
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