Confusion! It is a scammer’s best tool. It allows them to muddy the facts surrounding a situation enough to take advantage of the public. For example, they take an actual news story, bend the actual facts slightly and send out misleading letters, texts and emails designed to gain your hard-earned money or valuable private information.
There are many stories in the news about plans for further COVID economic assistance being debated in Congress, but nothing is even close to being finalized. That does not stop the unscrupulous from spreading confusion about the situation.
Recently, we have received numerous phone calls about letters and emails, purportedly from the IRS, regarding the extension of the filing deadline for the COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment checks.
It is true the IRS is sending out nine million letters regarding the filing deadline to receive an EIP check. However, the deadline has not been extended, nor does it apply to everyone. The legitimate letters are going to those who usually do not file a tax return, or didn’t file a return for 2018 or 2019. The IRS letters are telling those people how to register on the IRS website to claim their payment by October 15, 2020. Most other EIP checks were automatically mailed to those who have filed their income tax returns.
But scammers hope to confuse the general public into thinking there is now additional money available to everyone and they must act quickly to claim it. They are sending fake IRS letters about stimulus money. These letters and emails are incredibly true-to-life, with official logos and realistic terminology. Bogus links and phone numbers are furnished that will take the unsuspecting to websites asking for their personal and private information or payment for filing fees.
If you receive any letter supposedly from the IRS, go only to the official IRS website at www.irs.gov/EIP, or call them directly at 800-919-9835 to ensure you are not going to a fraudulent site.
Don’t be a victim. Here are some tips to protect yourself from scammers:
• The IRS will never text, call or email you about your stimulus payment, nor will they require you to pay a fee to claim your money. Hang up or delete the message or text.
• The Treasury sent EIP checks out long ago. We have had reports about bogus “checks” that must be verified in order to be activated. If you receive a check for an odd amount of money, especially one with cents, or one that needs to be activated, it is a fraud.
• Do not engage with scammers or thieves on any phone call, even if you know it is a fraud. Just hang up.
• Delete any text or email claiming you can receive your money faster by clicking on a link or sending them personal information.
If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of any correspondence from the IRS, call them at 800–919–9835 or give the BBB a call at 419-223-7010.
Also, look out for a Chase Bank scam alert!
Just this week, we started receiving complaints about genuine-looking emails from Chase Bank saying there was a problem with a customer’s account. Here is the exact text of the email:
“Your account has temporarily suspended
As a part of our commitment to help you keep your account secure,We have detected in a regular activity on your account and we are placing a hold on your account for your protection. Please click here and follow the instructions to unlock your account. We are here to assist you any time. Your account
security is our priority Thank you”
Saying the account has temporarily been “suspend”,” no space between “JP” and “Morgan” plus the lack of proper punctuation, capitalization indicate this email is obviously a scam!
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.