Scams, schemes and stimulus checks

How to protect your COVID-19 relief check: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a response to the public health crisis and associated economic fallout in the wake of COVID-19, includes provisions for financial relief for Americans, including individuals, in the form of a stimulus check.

Most Americans will receive some amount over the next few weeks, how much depends on a few factors and you can learn more within the Covid-19 Stimulus Checks Guide.² For many, the payment will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For those not using banks, elderly or others will receive a paper check in the mail from the IRS. With this payment, comes the potential for scammers to take advantage of Americans.


“Professional scammers may use this time as an opportunity to get you to ‘verify’ your filing information so they can receive your money and use your personal information to later file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme.”¹ They will also try to “get you to sign over your checks to them.”¹ Therefore, everyone who is to receive a check, is at risk. It’s vital you know what to look for.


Here are a few things to be aware of so you can avoid being scammed.

Here are the most commons schemes the IRS is reporting:


IRS Impersonation telephone scams

“An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.” ¹


  • “Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.”¹ 


  • “The IRS has seen an increase in “robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. In the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards.”¹


  • “This variation tries to play off the current tax season. Scammers call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.”¹

Here is what the IRS wants you to know so you can protect yourself:


“It’s important to remember that a government agency will never ask you for your personal information or threaten your benefits. The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Just say no. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information - even if someone claims it's necessary to get your stimulus check. It's a scam.”¹


  • “The IRS will deposit your check into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).”¹


  • “If you receive a call, don't engage with scammers or thieves, even if you want to tell them that you know it's a scam, or you think that you can beat them. Just hang up.”¹


  • “If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Don't click on any links in those emails”¹.


  • “Reports are also swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a “stimulus check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud - it will take the Treasury a few weeks to mail those out. If you receive a “stimulus check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.”¹


Don’t be a victim! Visit www.irs.gov¹ for the latest information on new scams and schemes! If you receive an unsolicited email, text or social media attempt that appears to be from the IRS or an organization associated with the IRS, like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, notify the IRS at [email protected].4 You can also learn more about coronavirus-related scams here.


Visit our market volatility resource center for a growing library of education and tools to help you navigate the uncertainty today and keep saving for your best life. 






  1. IRS, and
  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, article, April 15, 2020
  3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Corona Related Scams article, Erin Scheithe, March 27, 2020
  4. IRS, [email protected]