Scams

Watch Out for Stimulus Scams

If you see ads promising big stimulus-related checks that seem too good to be true, they probably are.

I’ve been seeing lots of ads suggesting that the government will be sending people big checks, usually of more than $12,000, as part of the stimulus plan. Is the Treasury Department really going to send checks of this size?

Answer:

Nope. Scam artists miss no opportunity to take your money, and they started to devise stimulus-related schemes as soon as the law was passed in February. The Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau and Federal Bureau of Investigation are warning people about several types of scams related to the stimulus.

The scam you mention usually involves an ad that says you can order a CD or access a special Web site that will show you how to get a $12,000 government grant -- if you make a small credit-card payment. But the fine print shows that you’re also signing up for recurring credit-card charges that can be tough to get out of. The BBB found that people who signed up for this advice were charged as much as $69.95 every month on their credit or debit cards. The BBB has already received hundreds of complaints about these Web sites.

In another scheme, which also surfaced when the first rebate checks were sent out last year, the crook sends an e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, warning that if you don’t respond promptly (often with your bank-account information), you’ll forfeit your stimulus money. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by e-mail and never asks for PINs, passwords, or secret access information for credit cards or bank accounts.

Just opening an attachment in one of these e-mails could infect your computer with a virus or malicious software. And if you click on a link in the message, you could be directed to a phishing Web site, which the crook sets up to look like a legitimate site (from the government, for example) created to collect personal information.

If you have received an e-mail like this, you can file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission. For warnings about e-mail hoaxes and phishing scams, see the FBI’s Cyber Investigations Web site. You can also check out companies and learn about recent scams at the Better Business Bureau's Web site. Also see the IRS’s information about phishing and e-mail scams.

Most Popular

Is the Stock Market Closed on Memorial Day 2022?
Markets

Is the Stock Market Closed on Memorial Day 2022?

The stock market gets a full day off for Memorial Day. The bond market gets Monday off too, not to mention an early close ahead of the holiday weekend…
May 27, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
3 Preferred Stock ETFs for High, Stable Dividends
ETFs

3 Preferred Stock ETFs for High, Stable Dividends

While you can easily purchase individual preferred stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) allow you to reduce your risk by investing in baskets of prefe…
May 26, 2022

Recommended

Will a Gas Tax Holiday or Suspension Lower Gas Prices Near You?
Tax Breaks

Will a Gas Tax Holiday or Suspension Lower Gas Prices Near You?

One way to bring down the price of gasoline is to establish a gas tax holiday. But will Uncle Sam, or your state government, suspend the gas taxes tha…
May 27, 2022
Where's My Refund? How to Track Your Tax Refund Status
tax refunds

Where's My Refund? How to Track Your Tax Refund Status

The IRS has an online tool that lets you track the status of your tax refund.
May 25, 2022
Which States' Taxes Are Going Down
Tax Breaks

Which States' Taxes Are Going Down

State lawmakers are cutting income, sales and property taxes to return budget surpluses to residents.
May 25, 2022
Taxes on Unemployment Benefits: A State-by-State Guide
state tax

Taxes on Unemployment Benefits: A State-by-State Guide

Don't be surprised by an unexpected state tax bill on your unemployment benefits. Know where unemployment compensation is taxable and where it isn't.
May 23, 2022