InvestigatorsMatter for Mallory


Relief checks: How much you'll get, when, and how scammers plan to target you

Posted at 6:27 AM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 12:27:21-04

BALTIMORE — The IRS is releasing more information about how they will send out economic impact payments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Friday, President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package, which included relief payments to Americans.

On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said those payments are expected to go out within the next three weeks. According to the IRS, a majority of people will not need to take any action in order to receive payment.

“It will happen quickly because it does no good to the American public if we’re delivering it in three, four months, they need this now,” Mnuchin said.

How much can you expect to get?
It depends on how much you make. Stimulus checks will be based off of adjusted gross income from 2019 federal tax returns, if you’ve already filed. If you haven't yet, the government will base your check off your 2018 filing.

Individuals with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will receive $1,200. Couples who file jointly and make $150,000 or less will receive $2,400 for couples. For each child 16 or younger, the government will add on $500.

Payments are reduced by $5 for every $100 over the income threshold, and completely phases out for those making $99,000 or more as an individual or $198,000 as a couple.

How will you get paid?
For most people, the money will be direct deposited into their bank accounts.

“For people where we don’t have their direct deposit information, there will be a web-based application where they can upload. And for people who don’t do that, there will be checks in the mail. But we’re going to try to get as much money into direct deposit as we can that’s the fastest way of getting hardworking Americans their money,” said Mnuchin.

The web-based portal where you can provide banking information will be available in the coming weeks.

What if you don't typically file tax returns?
Senior citizens and others who don't normally file tax returns will need to file a simple tax return in order to receive an economic impact payment. The IRS will soon provide information to this group of individuals on how to file a 2019 simple tax return. The IRS will need to know your filing status, number of dependents and direct deposit bank account information.

On April 1, the Treasury Department and IRS announced that Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file an abbreviated tax return to receive an Economic Impact Payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts.

How long are economic impact payments available?
If you need more time to consult with a tax professional, payments will be available through the end of 2020.

**The IRS will post all key information on as soon as it becomes available.**

Opportunity for scammers
More people file tax returns electronically, so that means the IRS already has your banking information. For those who don’t, the government needs it, and scammers know it.

“It’s the perfect storm right now because scammers have plausible reasons for baiting you to actually give up personal information, give up bank account information,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland.

There are reports they’re using government letterheads when emailing and will try texting or calling.

“And simply say to them you have been pre-approved, you are eligible for the stimulus package and as we are preparing to send you this eligibility information, we’d like to go ahead and get your bank account information,” Barnett said.

Aside from losing money, your information could be used to file fraudulent tax returns or identity theft.

The Comptroller of Maryland said these swindlers have even targeted tax preparers asking to confirm personal banking information and providing a link for you to fill out so they can collect.

While the IRS has pushed back the 2019 filing deadline to July 15, you may want to file soon so the IRS has the most up to date information on file.

Any money you receive will not be considered taxable.

The IRS will never call, text, or email you to verify banking information. They’ll also update their website with more details on how they plan to disperse the money and what they’ll need, be sure to check there first.

**The IRS will post all key information on as soon as it becomes available.**

Additional money for jobless workers
Unemployed workers will receive an additional $600 a week on top of state unemployment benefits, for up to four months, however, the Maryland Division of Unemployment Insurance is still updating its IT systems to process these new CARES Act programs.

A spokeswoman with the Maryland Department of Labor wrote:

"Our team needs to create new IT systems, modify our current technical systems, train staff, and conduct tests before administering the new programs created by the CARES Act. This will take time, but Marylanders will receive these new benefits back to the earliest date of their eligibility."

Anyone currently receiving benefits will automatically receive the additional money, if you qualify and once the technical systems are modified.

More information about Maryland's implementation of the new CARES Act can be found here.

If you have a Matter for Mallory, she wants to hear from you. You can email her using the form below or find her on Facebook and Twitter.