CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With Americans beginning the new year with their $600 stimulus checks, it's enticing, and easy, for scammers to insert themselves into the process, especially if people are already confused about what's happening.
With this much money on the line, scammers are viewing the second stimulus as an easy way to prey on people who aren't sure how much they're supposed to get, when they'll get it, or where it's coming from. The WCNC Defenders are issuing a warning and exposing stimulus-related scams after Americans lost $211 million in COVID-19 relief and stimulus scams last year.
Americans can be vulnerable when money is involved. It's human nature. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans reported just over 275,000 complaints in the last 12 months.
Here are three things to watch out for as stimulus payments go out this month:
First, be aware of people offering to help in the process "for a fee." It's a total scam. You don't need to apply for anything nor do you need to pay anyone to get stimulus money. There's no way they can "speed up" your payment, either. Be wary of people asking for this and wanting wire transfers, iTunes cards, or other prepaid debit cards.
Secondly, any "urgent need" for information should throw up a red flag. No one will call you from the IRS. Ever. Period. If someone calls you asking for banking information to speed up your check, or if they say there is a problem getting your check and they need you to verify your banking information, hang up. Don't be pressured, even if it sounds legitimate. It's not.
Finally, the bogus check scam. This is for people who don't receive their stimulus via direct deposit. If you get your check in the mail, be cautious of bogus checks showing up that look like the real thing. Scammers hope you deposit it, though. It will take a few days for the bank to realize it's fake, but in the meantime, someone may call saying the IRS overpaid you and you need to send it back pronto. If you do, you're out $600 or whatever amount you sent them.
Remember, there's only one real IRS website, it's www.IRS.gov.
Do not, under any circumstance, click links people send or text you. Open your browser and go to this official link. Never click what people send you (even if it looks real) because it may take you to an imposter website. Fakes can look real these days.