To say that these are unusual days is a colossal understatement. With all the fallout nationwide over COVID-19, we’re all experiencing things we never thought we’d see – an economy in freefall, streets and highways empty, stores and restaurants shuttered. At a time like this, when everyone is preoccupied with the health and protection of their family, their friends, and themselves, and with the federal government promising big relief checks, it’s an extremely fruitful season for the scammers and fraudsters.
Stimulus Check Scam: A Loud and Clear Warning to Be On the Alert
This recent article on the Money website sounds the warning loud and clear. “The coronavirus pandemic has changed almost every aspect of our daily lives,” the article begins. “We’ve turned our couches into offices, learned how to cook those lentils we all hoarded, and can’t remember what it feels like to shake hands with someone. But in the midst of all this change, there remains one constant: scammers are still scamming.”
Money reporter Kenadi Silcox spoke with cybersecurity expert Adam Levin, founder of the firm CyberScout. “Never before have so many people been this distracted,” says Levin. “We’re concerned about our health and our families, and scammers are taking advantage of that.” Levin isn’t alone in warning us to be on the alert. Earlier this month the Internal Revenue Service issued this warning telling us to “watch out for schemes tied to economic impact payments.” That’s the official IRS term for the coronavirus “stimulus checks” promised as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act that will send up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child to millions of American households.
Stimulus Check Scam: Retirees Are a Specific Target
The IRS is so worried about these scams that, according to the Money article, the agency has issued daily warnings on social media. “Retirees are specifically being targeted by scammers looking to gain personal information because they don’t typically have to file tax returns, the IRS says.” As the agency states emphatically, “No one from the agency will be reaching out to them by phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment.”
One of the giveaways that anything connected with the so-called stimulus checks is fraudulent is actually the most obvious. If the letter, email, or phone call claims to be from the IFS and uses the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment,” the correspondence is fake. The official term used by the IRS is “economic impact payment.”
Stimulus Check Scam: A Few Additional Red Flags
There are other scam warning signs from the IRS, according to the Money article. It’s almost certainly a fraud if:
- Anyone asks you to sign over your economic impact payment check to them for any reason.
- Anyone asks by phone, email, text or social media to verify personal or banking information, claiming the information is needed in order for you to receive or speed up your payment.
- Anyone suggests that by working on your behalf you’ll get your payment faster. “This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person,” warns Money.
- Anyone mails you an unexpected bonus check, then instructs you to call a phone number or go online to verify information in order to cash it. That check is bogus.
On its website, the Internal Revenue Service includes a special alert for seniors. “Seniors should be especially careful during this period,” the agency warns. “No one from the agency will be reaching out to them by phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment, also sometimes referred to as rebates or stimulus payments. The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees – no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive this.”
Stimulus Check Scams: No Additional Action Required
Even retirees “who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return” are being assured by the IRS “that no action on their part is needed to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment” – no matter what a scam artist claims.
If you have a loved one in your family who is a senior, especially one living alone, they might be especially vulnerable. Remind them, in the words of cybersecurity expert Adam Levin, “never [to] authenticate yourself to anyone who contacts you.” As Money explains, a financial institution or government agency will never call and ask you to identify your personal information. “They already have it. The only time it makes sense to give over personal information, like the last four digits of your social security, is if you made the call yourself.”
Two Important Retirement-Planning Announcements from AgingOptions
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share two important announcements that are designed to facilitate your LifePlanning process even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
First, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
Our second announcement: in cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we are excited to launch a ground-breaking new service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
Reliable information has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!
(originally reported at https://money.com)