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Beware of Stimulus Check Scams

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As the government prepares to distribute stimulus checks to help provide relief to households during the coronavirus crisis, scammers are using the opportunity to steal funds and identities from citizens by gaining access to their personal information. Some scammers are creating fake websites to add an air of credibility to their false claims of official government status. Particularly vulnerable to such scams are the elderly, who may struggle to stay up to date on the latest news and information regarding COVID-19 and government stimulus checks. 

In an effort to protect the elderly community, and other citizens targeted by scams, the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE) has released up to date information about government stimulus checks and a list of related scams to look out for. 

According to the latest reports, individuals with adjusted gross incomes of less than $75,000 should expect to receive $1200 with couples receiving $2400, and $500 per child. The rate is adjusted if the gross income is more than $75,000. This will be based on 2019 tax returns, or 2018 for those who have not yet filed for 2019. 

It is estimated to take several weeks for the checks to be distributed. Stimulus checks will be directly deposited into the banks accounts of those who received tax refunds by direct deposit in 2018. Otherwise, a paper check will arrive by mail. 

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Social security beneficiaries will automatically receive a stimulus check via direct deposit. There is no need to complete any tax information. The IRS will automatically use what the Social Security Administration has on file. 

Beware of the following scams:

Fake Stimulus Checks. There are fake checks circulating right now. It will take at least three weeks for direct deposits to land and up to 10 weeks for paper checks to arrive by mail. If you receive any checks now, it is a fraud. Telltale signs are checks written in odd amounts or include cents, or a check that requires you to verify receipt online or by calling a number.

Facebook, text, or social media messages. Scammers are reaching out to people online on social media platforms or by sending text messages with claims they are from the IRS or other government agency and are trying to get in touch with you regarding your stimulus check. Ignore these messsages. The U.S. Government will never reach out to you via any social media platform or by text. 

US Emergency Grants Federation is a fake website. Scammers pose as a government agency and will send a link to this website or something similar for you to verify personal information. The government does not do this. The government already has the informationt they need and will not reach out to you for verification of your social security number or other personal identification. 

Processing Fee. Scammers pose as the IRS or other government agency claiming you can receive your stimulus check faster if you pay a processesing fee. There is no such thing and there is no way to speed up the IRS payment process.

Telephone or email correspondence with the IRS or U.S. Treasury. The IRS will never call or email you to verify any personal information. This includes your social security number, bank account number, or anything that allows access to your identity. As soon as you receive a call or email saying they are from the IRS or U.S. Treasury, hang up or trash it. 

These scammers and fraudsters are professional criminals and will use a variety of methods to steal your personal identification and your money. They use scare tactics and even attempt to befriend vulnerable people into trusting them. 

To report a scam call or email contact the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424.

Feel free to reach out to your friends at COVE if you feel you are a victim of a scam or fraud, We can provide you with the appropriate resources and guide you to the best agency to further help. Marichel Vaught, Building Bridges Program Director/Northern Vermont Coordinator

Marichel@vermontelders.org or 802-595-9872