How to Spot a Scam With Your Coronavirus Payment, From the IRS' Chief Investigator

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There are key words to watch for when it comes to the payment checks Americans hope to soon receive as part of the coronavirus relief efforts.

Words that can help consumers know what is - and what isn’t - legitimate when it comes to the payments from the Internal Revenue Service that will be so crucial to so many families.

Kathy Enstrom, the Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigations, based in Chicago, shared those watch words and other areas of concern that consumers should look out for.

When asked what those checks from the IRS should be called, Enstrom said, "The IRS is calling them Economic Impact Payments. We are not calling them ‘stimulus payments’ and the reason we do that is to differentiate ourselves from the scammers out there."

Everyone is wondering how much they will get from the federal government when the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill is complete. Here's a basic guideline of what you can expect using items we found while stuck home with our kids.

What is the IRS hearing about current scams hitting homes - even before those payments come in?

"We know some fake relief checks are already circulating," Enstrom said. "Asking the individual on the other end to deposit the check and send part of the money one place. You get to keep some… It is completely bogus."

"There are also people saying, ‘I can get you more money, faster.' Unfortunately, that is not truthful, it is a scam," she added.

Enstrom said the IRS will "absolutely" never send a link to click on or ask for your banking information or any other details like that - ever - because she reiterated the agency already has information on file.

A fear grips so many consumers. Worried about the viral crisis, IRS agents can’t say it enough: there will be no attempt on the agency’s part to get you to give them personal information via a phone call or email. And if you do field an attempt like that, they want to hear about it.

“And for the criminals: we are on the lookout for you. We will be utilizing every method that we have. We will find you and prosecute you,” Enstrom said.

The coordinated hotline to report COVID-19-related scams is (866) 720-5721, and the email is DISASTER@LEO.GOV.

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