Americans are being warned over a new text scam that aims to trick people into disclosing bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 coronavirus stimulus payment.
While the vast majority of stimulus checks have already been received by individuals and households across the US, potentially helping to ward off the need to take out the best personal loans online (opens in new tab), credit cards (opens in new tab), and payday loans (opens in new tab), final efforts are now being made to ensure the remaining nine million eligible beneficiaries register in time to get their payment ahead of the final cut off date of November 21 (opens in new tab). However, in an unwelcome complication to the push, a growing number of people have reported receiving text messages that attempt to get them to share their bank details before the payment can be made.
What does the scam text message say?
In an effort to raise awareness of the scam, the IRS has revealed (opens in new tab) that the scam text message states:
"You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account. Continue here to accept this payment …"
The text includes a link to a fake phishing web address, which appears to come from a state agency or relief organization, but instead takes those who click on it to a fraudulent website that impersonates the IRS.gov Get My Payment website. It is when someone visits the fraudulent website and enters their personal and financial account details that the scammers are able to collect the information that they’re looking to use for ill purposes.
What to do if you receive the scam text
The IRS, which does not send unsolicited texts or emails, has reminded taxpayers that neither it nor state agencies will ever text taxpayers asking for bank account information in order that their stimulus payment may be made.
People who receive the text message are also being advised to take a screenshot of the message that they receive and forward it via email to email@example.com with the following information:
- Date/Time/Timezone that they received the text message
- The number that appeared on their Caller ID
- The number that received the text message.
Anyone who thinks they might be eligible for the stimulus payment (opens in new tab), but are yet to receive it, have been told to go directly to IRS.gov, where those who do not have a filing requirement but are eligible for the payment can use a non-filers tool (opens in new tab) to make their claim.
"Criminals are relentlessly using COVID-19 and Economic Impact Payments as cover to try to trick taxpayers out of their money or identities," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "This scam is a new twist on those we've been seeing much of this year. We urge people to remain alert to these types of scams."
Protect yourself from online scams
The text message is the latest in a long line of scams (opens in new tab) that have attempted to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. Early on in the pandemic, people reported receiving fake emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asking them to click through to a list of new COVID-19 cases where they live but instead contained malware capable of infecting the best home computers (opens in new tab) and laptops (opens in new tab).
The best advice if you receive an email that you’re not convinced comes from a genuine source is to leave it untouched. For all round online protection, however, there’s no substitute for the best antivirus software (opens in new tab) and the best identity theft protection services (opens in new tab). It might also be worth paying for the best VPN services (opens in new tab) if you want to keep your location hidden from prying online eyes.