Since March 16, when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice declared a State of Emergency, West Virginians have been grappling with the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Unfortunately, scammers never stop their tactics; in fact, they are capitalizing on the situation to scam Americans out of money and sensitive personal information.
In this article, we’ll look at one of the most popular current scams: “Stimulus Checks,” aka the Economic Impact Payments coming from the IRS. Learn the correct details from the IRS, how to spot scammers, and what to do if you encounter a scam.
Latest Updates from the IRS
According to the Economic Impact Payment Information Center on IRS.gov:
“Millions of Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments (Payments) authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to calculate and automatically send the Payments to most eligible individuals, however some may have to provide additional information to the IRS to get their Payments.”
You can also find updates on the IRS’s Twitter feed such as:
In West Virginia, there are a total of 72,299 SSI recipients and 142,694 Veterans. So please pass on this important alert to anyone you know who would benefit from it.
Am I Eligible for an Economic Impact Payment?
If you weren’t among the first wave of Payment recipients, you’re probably wondering why you haven’t received your Payment yet. IRS call centers are closed right now, so you can’t call to check on your status. Instead, review the Get My Payment FAQs to double check eligibility and other requirements. Then hop over to the Get My Payment application to check on the status of your Payment. If at first you get a “No Status Available” message and you meet the eligibility rules, keep trying once a day. Some people find that they are prompted to provide bank account information eventually so the IRS can direct deposit their Payment.
How to Detect an IRS Payment Scheme
As the IRS reported, “…it’s NOT a stimulus check, but an ‘Economic Impact Payment’ ... that wording could be the difference between a real payment and a scam.”
The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office “strongly urges all consumers to ignore calls” from scammers posing as IRS employees. Remember that the IRS isn’t even making phone calls right now as its workforce is operating remotely. Furthermore, the IRS doesn’t contact individual taxpayers about refunds and other Payments. There is nothing you need to do to get your payment, other than enter your information on the secure IRS application, and there is nothing a third-party can do to help you get the money faster.
In addition to phone calls, scammers may try to reach you by text or email. Ignore and delete these messages.
To report suspicious activity, West Virginians are asked to call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Utility Scams to Avoid in West Virginia
While looking out for Coronavirus-related scams, West Virginians should also be wary of utility shutoff scams. West Virginia American Water has issued a warning for customers reported by 12 WBOY news:
“Pretending to be a trusted utility worker is a trick some criminals use to gain access to homes, obtain payments or steal personal information…”
In the meantime, the Mountain State’s largest utility companies, including American Electric Power, First Energy, Dominion Energy, and West Virginia American Water have suspended utility shut offs to help their customers deal with the fallout from the pandemic.
If you have questions, suspect a scammer has contacted you, or if you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline, 1-800-368-8808, or file a written complaint on their website.
If you have any questions about the security of your bank account or worry that your financial information has been stolen, give us a call at 304-534-7200. First Exchange Bank cares about the safety and security of all of our customers. We are here to help!