Stimulus check scams: What thieves are looking for

BBB, law enforcement warn people to be wary of emails, texts or phone calls.

As thousands of $1,400 stimulus checks from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act are released to area people this week, the Better Business Bureau and law enforcement are warning people about possible scams.

Scams related to the latest government issued stimulus check are not about scammers looking to take checks but to gain access to sensitive personal information. The BBB suggests avoiding responding to emails that require personal or banking information and checking website URLs and responding to calls from unfamiliar or restricted phone numbers.

“These stimulus checks are helping many meet their financial needs during this pandemic. But, don’t let your despair make you the perfect victim for a scammer. Know the only way you’re going to receive a stimulus check is either a direct deposit into your bank account or a check from the US Treasury for the amount you’re eligible for. Anything else, any other point of contact, is a scam and you want to steer clear,” said John North, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Dayton and the Miami Valley.

ExploreIncrease in online scams during the pandemic

The first batch of payments this week will be made via direct deposit, the IRS said, but checks and debit cards with people’s stimulus funds will be mailed out in coming weeks.

Scams may present themselves in the form of emails, texts messages, or phone calls asking for victims to pay a fee to obtain the funds. The agency has already received 20 government agency imposter scam reports this month for Ohio resulting in a loss of almost $600 for some victims.

In addition to checking bank statement and credit card statements, North said follow up with credit bureaus.

“Check all three credit reporting agencies and lock down your credit with all of them because more than likely what they are trying to do is to get your personal information so that they can establish credit in your name,” he said.

The BBB suggests researching unknown web addresses through a browser but not clicking the actual link.

“If you ever receive a call from someone claiming to be from the government or the IRS, realize they do not call, they don’t ask for personal information like social security numbers or verifying your address or account information,” said Vandalia Police Chief Kurt Althouse.

Althouse said it’s important to report the scam to the IRS but victims can file a police report with their local police department. Scams can be reported to BBB.org/scamtracker or at ReportFraud.ftc.gov to prevent future scams and potential victims.

The IRS says most stimulus payments, officially called economic impact payments, will be distributed via direct deposit.

In the first round of payments, more than 6 million Ohioans received checks worth a combined $10.1 billion, the IRS said.

This round, most people will receive $1,400 individually and $1,400 for each qualifying dependent.

In the previous two rounds of payments, only people with dependents under the age of 17 were eligible for the additional stimulus funding.

Now, qualifying dependents can include college students, parents and grandparents and adults with disabilities.

Ohioans should receive a full $1,400 economic impact payment if their adjusted income is $75,000 or less. Married couples will receive the full amount if the earn up to $150,000.

Individuals who earn $80,000 or more and couples who earn $160,000 or more are not eligible for this round of stimulus funding. Some people will receive partial payments.

This round of stimulus payments is the largest to date.

Most people received $1,200 in the first round and $600 in the second.

Cornelius Frolik contributed to this story.


HOW TO CHECK

People can check on the status of their 2021 stimulus check by visiting https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.

Scams can be reported to BBB.org/scamtracker or at ReportFraud.ftc.gov to prevent future scams and potential victims.

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