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Third stimulus checks still available — and scammers are on the prowl

Third stimulus checks still available — and scammers are on the prowl

02 Nov 2021

Gabe Ginsberg | Moment | Getty Images

Criminals are using the promise of a third stimulus check to steal money from unsuspecting victims, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed in March, authorized a third round of pandemic-era payments, of up to $1,400 a person. The IRS is sending the payments to eligible households through the end of 2021.

The IRS determines eligibility and check amount based on income and other factors. The agency issued most payments automatically, based on data from a recent tax return or an online tool for people who don’t typically file a return.

However, some eligible people still haven’t received payments; others who got a first or second round may think they qualify but may not due to different criteria required to receive the third round.

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Scammers are now sending bogus e-mails that appear to be from the IRS, claiming individuals can get a third Economic Impact Payment if they click a link to access a form for additional information and get help with an application, according to an alert the FTC issued Wednesday.

“But the link is a trick,” wrote Cristina Miranda, an official in the agency’s Division of Consumer and Business Education. “If you click it, a scammer might steal your money and your personal information to commit identity theft.”

The fraud is a type of government impersonator scam, whereby criminals pretend to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or some other government agency.

Con artists typically threaten that something bad will happen or that individuals will miss out on a benefit if they refuse to share personal or financial information or to make a payment in cash or via gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency.

Nearly 12,500 Americans have filed fraud reports during the Covid pandemic linked to a government imposter scam, according to FTC data. They reported losing about $17.6 million.

“The IRS doesn’t initiate contact by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information — even information related to the Economic Impact Payments,” according to the tax agency. “Also, watch out for emails with attachments or links claiming to have special information about Economic Impact Payments or refunds.”

Consumers should visit the IRS website directly for trustworthy information, according to the FTC.

Most households received the third round of stimulus checks payments automatically based on a 2020 tax return. The IRS issued about 163.5 million payments worth about $390 billion as of June 3, according to federal data.

“You do not need to take any action other than file a 2020 tax return as soon as possible to give the IRS time to process and issue your payment before the end of 2021 if you are eligible,” the IRS said.

Households that aren’t required to file a tax return can use the IRS Non-Filer Sign-Up Tool, which is available from the Advance Child Tax Credit page. (They would click “Enter Information Here” under the Non-Filer: Submit Your Information heading. Households don’t need to have children to use the tool to receive the third stimulus check.)