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According to the Federal Trade Commission, criminals are using the promise of a third stimulus check to steal money from unsuspecting victims.
The US bailout, signed by President Joe Biden in March, authorized a third round of pandemic-era payments, of up to $1,400 per person. The IRS will send the payments to eligible households until the end of 2021.
The IRS determines eligibility and checks the amount based on income and other factors. The agency made most payments automatically, based on data from a recent tax return or an online tool for people who normally don’t file returns.
However, some eligible people have still not received payments; others who have passed a first or second round may think they qualify, but may not because of other criteria required to receive the third round.
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Scammers are now sending fake emails that appear to be from the IRS claiming that individuals can get a third-party Economic Impact Payment if they click on a link to access a form for additional information and help with an application, according to issued a warning from the FTC on Wednesday.
“But the link is a trick,” wrote Cristina Miranda, an official in the agency’s Consumer and Business Education division. “If you click on it, a scammer can steal your money and your personal information to commit identity theft.”
The fraud is a form of government scam where criminals pretend to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or another government agency.
Scammers typically threaten that something bad will happen or that individuals will miss out on an advantage if they refuse to share personal or financial information or make a payment in cash or via gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency.
According to FTC data, nearly 12,500 Americans filed fraud reports during the Covid pandemic related to a government scammer. They reported a loss of approximately $17.6 million.
“The IRS does not initiate contact via email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information — not even information related to the Economic Impact Payments,” the IRS said. “Also, beware of emails with attachments or links that claim to have special information about payments or refunds with economic impact.”
According to the FTC, consumers should visit the IRS website directly for reliable information.
Most households automatically received the third round of stimulus checks based on a 2020 tax return. The IRS made about 163.5 million payments worth about $390 billion as of June 3, according to federal data.
“You don’t need to take any action other than to file a 2020 tax return as soon as possible to give the IRS time to process and execute your payment before the end of 2021 if you qualify,” the IRS said.
Households that are not required to file a tax return can use the IRS Non-Filer Sign-Up Tool, which is available on the Advance Child Tax Credit page. (They would click “Enter Information Here” under the heading Non-Filer: Submit Your Information. Households do not need to have children to use the tool to receive the third stimulus check.)