Stimulus payments started going out this week, a financial boost to millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus outbreak. AARP has been working hard to ensure that as many people as possible who need the money most will receive payments automatically, without the burden of filing a tax return at a time when free tax-preparation assistance is limited.
We didn’t stop working, even after we helped persuade the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to reverse course and send automatic payments to Social Security beneficiaries, including recipients of Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). We kept reaching out to officials in the Treasury Department, at the White House and in Congress.
Our perseverance continues to pay off. On Wednesday, the IRS announced that those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — a program that benefits people with little to no income who are 65 or older, blind or disabled — are also eligible to receive automatic $1,200 stimulus payments.
Now, as the distribution of stimulus payments continues to roll out over the coming weeks, we want to make sure the money stays where it belongs — in your wallet and out of the hands of scammers. Unfortunately, crooks don’t slow down in a crisis; in fact, they thrive during times of uncertainty. And they don’t have a heart. Already, more than $13 million has been lost to coronavirus-related schemes, based on nearly 10,000 fraud complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as of mid-April.
We know that con artists like to prey on older adults, and now, your stimulus payments are a top target. Please remember this: The IRS won’t email, call or text asking you to verify personal or financial information like bank account numbers in order to send you a payment. Scammers will. The IRS also won’t ask you to pay a fee to issue or speed up a stimulus payment. The only place you should enter your bank account information online is through the secure web tools on IRS.gov.
The scams don’t stop at stimulus payments. AARP has already warned its members and the public about a host of swindles that have emerged during the pandemic, from fake coronavirus testing sites to websites peddling bogus COVID-19 cures. We will continue to stay in touch with authorities and alert you to the latest scams as they develop.
There are more steps you can take to help protect yourself from coronavirus-related fraud. If you or a loved one suspects a scam, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline toll-free at 877-908-3360 or visit us at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. You can also report scams online using AARP’s Scam-Tracking Map. In addition, if you receive a suspicious stimulus-payment email, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org; you can file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
It’s crucial to stay alert and stay informed during this crisis. Together, we can keep fraudsters at bay and keep our money safe.