Top 6 Coronavirus Stimulus Check Scams

En español: Since Congress passed a massive $2 trillion relief package to help Americans, businesses and non-profits make it through the coronavirus pandemic, new scams have appeared to take advantage of peoples’ financial needs. We have some of the top scams to avoid and warning signs to look for.

What are the top 6 stimulus scams?
  1. Fake Checks: Don’t let your excitement or need allow a scammer to take advantage of you. If you get a stimulus check in the mail before late April, it is likely a fraud. The IRS will need a few weeks, at least, to mail out checks. And for now, it looks like the IRS is forgoing any paper checks. So if you get a check too soon, for an unusual amount, or requires verification, be wary.

  2. Social Media Messages: The US government will never ask you for personal or financial information over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media. The Better Business Bureau has found a rising number of scams offering to pay medical bills for seniors, give out emergency grants, or deliver additional money. Each takes you to a phony website to steal valuable information from you.

  3. Fake Social Security Number Requests: According to AARP, the Social Security Administration received over 450,000 complaints last year of scammers asking for Americans’ Social Security numbers. This number is likely to increase during this pandemic, with scammers posing as the IRS to request Social Security numbers. You should never give out this information unless it is through an approved government portal. 

  4. Small Business Administration Loan Scams: Any email communication from SBA will come from accounts ending with sba.gov. If you have a question about getting a SBA disaster loan, call 800-659-2955 or send an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

  5. Processing Fees: Despite some peoples’ promise to get your money quicker if you pay a small fee, it is false. Checks will be sent directly to you or deposited in your account. See U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s guide on stimulus checks. 

  6. Cash Advances: Some lenders offer to give you an advance on your stimulus money. The catch: you pay a high interest rate which can add up quickly, costing you more than it is worth.

How do I spot a scam?

Many of these stimulus check scams are sophisticated and may be difficult to spot. These are some key phrases or truths to keep in mind to avoid falling victim to a scam. 

  1. Uses the words "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment", while asking for your information. The official term is economic impact payment and official government payments will use this term instead. 

  2. Uses a phone call, email, text or other social media avenue to “verify your personal and/or banking information”. These scams will likely claim that the information is needed to speed up receiving your payment, but official government agencies will never ask for your confidential information this way.

  3. Offers a faster payment or tax refund. These scams will claim to work on the taxpayer's behalf and may be proposed by social media or in person. 

  4. Mails you a false check, perhaps in an amount that doesn’t make sense for your income level, then tells the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.