COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the economy, leaving millions in our country jobless. In an effort to help ease this financial burden, the IRS will soon be sending economic impact payments (also known as “stimulus checks”) of up to $1,200 per individual as part of a $2 trillion stimulus package. While this is great news for those suffering financially, this has also created new opportunities for criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. Here are a few tactics to be aware of as we navigate this uncharted territory.
Identity thieves often acquire personal or financial information from the dark web, then use what is called “spoofing” to call you from a number that appears to be your bank or other familiar number. At this point, they request the missing pieces of information they need to access your accounts. This ploy has already become more common as news of these payments have become common knowledge and most of us are eager to receive these distributions. The most important thing to remember here is that neither your bank nor the IRS will ever contact you to request personal information. They already have it!
It is always important to be cautious when it comes to clicking links in emails and text messages. This is particularly important during times like this, as we see a spike in phishing emails and text messages, which often use ploys such as clicking to get more information or access funds. Watch out for attachments as well, which when opened can infect your device with malware and compromise your information.
The IRS will use the direct deposit information from your 2019 tax return to distribute your payment. If the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit information on file, you will receive a check in the mail instead. The IRS will never request your direct deposit or any other banking information, so if you receive communication that says otherwise, do not respond. Later this month, taxpayers can submit this information via a secure online portal.
These are just a few of the things to watch out for during these tumultuous times. Please know that while following this advice is helpful in lowering your chances of becoming a victim, there is no foolproof way to prevent identity theft. The best thing you can do to protect yourself (and your check!) is to use a comprehensive identity theft protection service. ReliaShield is the smarter, more affordable solution, with $1 million in stolen funds and expense reimbursement, full-service restoration, and 24/7 customer service starting at just $7.99/month.