Anytime (like now) that there is a rollout of government assistance, we, here in Greater Columbus Ohio, can count on two things:
1) Bumps in the road (it’s hard to manage many millions of people needing help)
I haven’t yet heard of any of my local Greater Columbus Ohio clients or friends being taken in by COVID scams, but I did want to alert you to this dynamic.
How to make sure your check is the right check.
Most of the Economic Impact Payments (i.e. stimulus checks) have been direct deposited by now to Greater Columbus Ohio bank accounts. So if you have NOT received it, you might want to check the status using the tool the IRS has set up here:
Some who did not set up direct deposit, or for other reasons, might receive a check instead. That said, a couple things to note:
First, as with tax refunds issued by check, there’s always the possibility that crooks could steal the relief payments from their curbside mailboxes (yes, even here in Greater Columbus Ohio).
Second, some scammers have created fake stimulus checks. This is the latest variation of the bogus government payment scam that’s been around for years. Criminals send fake checks to their scam victims, advising them to quickly deposit the checks. Then the second part of the scam kicks in, with the crooks telling their prey that the checks are too large.
Since they “got more than they were due”, the recipients of the fake checks need to send back part of the money. Yep, send the alleged excess back to the crooks who issued the worthless counterfeit checks in the first place!
The various agencies have created a two-page PDF with more on the legitimate coronavirus checks:
“Check” that out (pun intended) and when you get something in the mail, verify it according to that PDF. The only thing worse than having to wait for your coronavirus money is falling for a fake stimulus check scam.
But wait, there’s more…
There are three more ways the scammers are feeling their oats:
1) Emails saying: “Your check is waiting.”
Here is where the crooks say they’ll send you your coronavirus money. All you have to do is (you guessed it) provide some personal info.
2) “I’m with the government and I’m here to help.”
If you get a phone call from the “IRS” or any other government agency, wanting to “help” you get your payment, hang up. This is especially true if it is a number from INSIDE the Greater Columbus Ohio area. Scammers love to look like local calls.
These are NOT real government officials. And for the love of Pete, DO NOT give them any personal information.
No, you don’t have to pay any kind of processing fees to get your payment faster.
The IRS or any government agency will NOT be calling you to help. They’re understaffed … but again, they do have this handy website:
3) “Click here to get your stimulus check.”
They won’t be emailing you anything, even if these websites do look remarkably legit.
In point of fact, they are open doors to thieves.
And they are cropping up like weeds now that the COVID-19 economic relief payments are being distributed.
In fact, there is a great service, Checkphish by Bolster, that tracks web fraud and offers services to deal with it. They have created a “COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Phishing Scam Tracker Global Online Dashboard”:
If you go there, you will see that there are literally hundreds of thousands of COVID scams currently being perpetrated around these payments.
BE CAREFUL OUT THERE.
Last of all … we’re here to help — and this is whether you live in the Greater Columbus Ohio area or not.
Whether or not you get impacted by scammers, this is an intense season. Yes, taxes are still around the corner for some (July 15th), but leaving that aside … please let us know how we can help you make financial decisions in the next few weeks.
We are in your corner.
Chuck Franklin CPA, LLC
“CRISIS Action Plan” for my clients and friends:
1) Don’t marinate in other people’s panic. Be mindful of your social media consumption.
2) Continue to stay financially and logistically prepared for worsening situations.
3) Make sure you have some ready, liquid assets, if you are able. (I.e., cash in the bank, and in hand.)
4) Set aside plans for any big spending until the dust settles — but especially look out for your small business owner friends and vendors.