Fake Stimulus Checks, Beware- For quite some time in 2021, a fourth round of stimulus checks issued by the federal government was a popular idea among American voters – and also among many progressive Democratic legislators.
New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for the extension of federal unemployment benefits through February 2022, opting instead for a universal basic income-style system instead of a single check.
In March 2021, Senators Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, and almost two dozen other senators urged the Biden administration to send recurring COVID-19 stimulus checks to tens of millions of Americans throughout the remainder of the pandemic. The bill was never passed, but not for lack of interest from voters.
At the time, online search interest in a fourth round of stimulus checks increased steadily, with Google Trends data at the time showing that West Virginia had the highest number of searches of any state, followed by Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.
And while Google search trend data shows that people are searching for information about a fourth stimulus less – owing to the fact that the White House has effectively ruled it out – many states have passed new bills that will redirect budget surplus funds to residents in stimulus-check style aid.
With that in mind, the Internal Revenue Service is warning Americans not to get caught up in stimulus check scams.
“Dirty Dozen Week” Warnings on Stimulus Checks
As part of the IRS’ annual “Dirty Dozen” scams warning list, a press release from the government agency stressed the seriousness of scam artists using social media, phone calls, and fake emails to steal money with false promises of COVID-related stimulus checks.
The statement described how many scams use unemployment information and fake job offers to obtain information from victims. The information is then used to file fraudulent tax returns.
“Scammers continue using the pandemic as a device to scare or confuse potential victims into handing over their hard-earned money or personal information,” Chuck Rettig, the IRS commissioner said. “I urge everyone to be leery of suspicious calls, texts and emails promising benefits that don’t exist.”
Fake Stimulus Checks – What to Look Out For
Economic Impact Payment and tax refund scams are among the most serious scams the IRS is warning Americans to look out for. The statement recommends Americans ignore text messages, emails, or phone calls asking about bank account information or requesting that they click a link to verify their data. Any such emails or messages should be deleted, and the links should not be clicked.
“Remember, the IRS won’t initiate contact by phone, email, text or social media asking for Social Security numbers or other personal or financial information related to Economic Impact Payments. Also be alert to mailbox theft. Routinely check your mail and report suspected mail losses to postal inspectors,” the latest statement reads, adding that most eligible people have already received their payments.
Simple ways to protect yourself against these scams is to contact the relevant government departments directly rather than clicking links sent in unsolicited text messages and emails.
Individuals should also never let a caller pressure them into giving sensitive data over the telephone or email.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.