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VERIFY: How to make sure your stimulus check is real

The VERIFY team broke down the most common scams and how to avoid them.

Scammers have been on the lookout for how to get their hands on people’s stimulus checks, causing the Federal Trade Commission and the Treasury Department to create a registry where you can tell them if it happened to you.

THE QUESTION

Are people getting fake stimulus checks?

THE ANSWER

Yes, and victims are also being targeted by a phishing scam aimed at getting their personal information.

WHAT WE FOUND

An attorney from the Federal Trade Commission Division of Consumer and Business Education explained to us that “the IRS will not call, text you, email you, or contact you on social media asking for personal or bank account information – even related to the stimulus payments.”

The FTC, which is in charge of handling these claims, also advises to watch out for emails and texts offering “special information about the payments," a very common form of “phishing” (a link to get personal information or download malware to your computer or personal device).

The U.S. Department of Treasury released a guide to help people identify fake paper checks by verifying the treasury seal, security ink (changes color with moisture), microprinting, watermarks and ultraviolet overprinting. 

The FTC attorney also warned that scammers are using these fake stimulus payments “to try to get you to pay a fee to get your stimulus payment." In other words, the scammer may tell you that you need to deposit the fake check and then send a percentage of the money back to them for the payment to go through.

"Or they might try to convince you to give them your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number," the FTC said.

MOST COMMON SCAMS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

Reject any requests for personal and financial information, such as social security numbers and bank information, or any sort of message requesting to “accept” a payment. 

The IRS won’t contact you, ever. If someone calls claiming to be from any government office, do not give any information or accept it. It’s false. 

Other forms of scams could be texts of other “stimulus” packages offered by retail stores or getting checks of over $1,200 and then asking you to send the money back to a person or financial institution.

If you receive anything with the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus," it is fake. The official term for this financial aid is “economic impact payment”.

The IRS will send a letter in the mail 15 days after sending the payment to confirm the money was sent. If someone gets the letter without getting the payment, it could be a scam or most likely because the citizen’s information on file is not updated.

The only way of getting the payment is by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card or paper check -- the same type of check used to get tax refunds, Social Security or other government benefits money.

Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never do so in response to a call, text, or email.

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