Scammers Target Virginia Stimulus Checks Through Phone Calls

By Arianna Coghill

January 15, 2021

Virginia Attorney General issues a warning as people start receiving calls.

RICHMOND- While waiting on your stimulus checks to clear, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for potential scammers looking to take your money. Adding to the long list of COVID-19 phishing scams, these scammers are now posing as federal agents in order to get access to your bank information. 

This week, Attorney General Mark Herring issued a warning, alerting Virginians about the scams. 

“This is a moment when we should all be coming together to support one another, but unfortunately we know that scammers and criminals often view payments like the $600 economic assistance as an opportunity to line their own pockets,” said Herring. 

After holding up the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill for almost a week, President Donald Trump finally signed off on the stimulus package in late December. That package includes a $600 stimulus check to eligible adults and $600 for each child dependent. Now, people are patiently waiting for the money to show up in their accounts. 

The IRS should either mail you your check or deposit it straight to you, using your tax information on file. But, these scammers are banking on you not knowing that. 

Either through pushy phone calls or emails, they’ll pretend that they are with the government and offer to send the check to you. They’ll either ask you for banking information or for you to send money to them. But as long you know what to look for, it’s easy to not fall victim to these scams.  

RELATED: Scammers Target Virginia Seniors, Using COVID-19 Fears

What You Need to Know

Firstly, you don’t have to do anything to get your stimulus check. If you qualify, you’ll either see it in your bank account or your mail. That’s the most important thing to know. 

“Just remember that no action should be required on your part in order to receive the assistance. It should either be directly deposited into your bank account, or mailed directly to your house,” said Herring. ” If you get a call, email, text, or other communication asking for personal or bank account information, hang up, delete the message, and don’t provide any information because it’s probably a scam.”

While the IRS has sent several people their checks, there are still plenty of people waiting. Administrative issues and mailing delays are the main culprits. However, the federal government is never going to contact you so they can send you your stimulus check. They will also never ask you to pay any money for your stimulus check. If they’re asking for money, it’s definitely a scam. 

How Do I Stop Them From Contacting Me? 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop these calls and emails permanently. But, there are some bandaid solutions that can help suss out the scammers from a run of the mill telemarketer. Herring recommends signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry. This won’t prevent scammers from contacting you, but it should make you more suspicious of random, unfamiliar numbers calling you. 

According to Herring, legitimate businesses usually won’t call registered people. Scammers don’t care. If you’re on the Do Not Call list and you’re getting random calls, they’re most likely trying to scam you. 

“Putting your number on the list helps to screen your calls for legitimacy and reduce the number of legitimate telemarketing calls you get,” said Herring.

If they do get in contact with you, it’s important that you verify who you’re talking to. Sometimes, that can be easier said than done. Many fraudsters use very official sounding names and organizations to trick you. 

 “To make the call seem legitimate, scammers also use internet technology to disguise their area code or generate a fake name on caller ID,” Herring said. “So even though it may look like they’re calling locally or somewhere in the United States, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.”

Haven’t Received Your Stimulus Check Yet?

So, if the government isn’t going to call you to deposit your check, you’re probably asking why you haven’t gotten your stimulus check yet. Your tax return might be causing the delay. According to the IRS website, there are three administrative hang ups that are causing people to not get their checks. 

If any of these apply to you, it could be reason the IRS hasn’t sent your tax return yet: 

  • You’ve filed a tax return, but the IRS hasn’t finished processing your 2019 return 
  • You don’t usually file a return, and you used “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” but the IRS hasn’t processed your entry yet
  • You’re not eligible for a payment

If you want to check the status of your stimulus check, you can use the IRS Get My Payment tool. If it says “Payment Status #2- Not available”, you’re not going to automatically get a second check. Instead, you’ve got to wait until you file your 2020 tax returns. Then you’ll receive your stimulus check and your tax return at the same time. 

There’s also a chance that the IRS sent it to the wrong bank. But, on the bright side, banks are required to send that money back to the IRS. According to the IRS, due to the speed at which the law required the IRS to issue the second round of Economic Impact Payments, some payments may have been sent to an account that is closed.

It’s also important to remember that you check might still be in the mail. You can check and see whether or not the IRS mailed your check through the IRS payment tool. It usually takes 3 to 4 weeks from shipping to arrive.

What If I’ve Already Been Scammed Out of My Stimulus?

If you think you might be a victim of a phishing scam, reach out to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section. You can call them at 1 (800) 552-9963 or send them an email: [email protected]. You can also file a complaint using this online complaint form

If you’re still waiting on your check to arrive, the IRS has created the Recovery Rebate Credit. This credit allows the IRS to compensate eligible taxpayers who did not get their stimulus money.  You can find it on line 30 of your 2020 taxes. For the fastest processing, the IRS encourages people to file 2020 tax returns electronically.

Arianna Coghill is a content producer with the Dogwood. You can reach her at [email protected].

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