University of Wisconsin–Madison
Illustration by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Red spikes that cover the outer surface of the gray ball-shaped virus.

Coronavirus relief check scams

The U.S. Department of the Treasury warns us:

If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond.  These are scams.  Please contact the FBI at www.ic3.gov so that the scammers can be tracked and stopped.

Fraud involving payment of Federal taxes should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The Federal Trade Commission tells us on their “Coronavirus checks: flattening the scam curve” page that:

  • The IRS will not send you an overpayment and make you send the money back in cash, gift cards, or through a money transfer. If you get an official-looking check for more than what you were expecting – say, for $3,000 – the next call you’re likely to get is from a scammer. They’ll tell you to keep your $1,200 payment, and return the rest by sending cash, gift cards, or money transfers. It’s a scam that will leave you owing money to your bank.
  • That’s not the IRS calling, texting, or emailing. Scammers are sending official-looking messages – including postcards with a password to be used online to “access” or “verify” your payment or direct deposit information. The IRS will not contact you to collect your personal information or bank account. It’s a scam.