WASHINGTON — Stimulus checks are on the minds of many Americans suffering from the coronavirus shutdown. But they're also top-of-mind for scammers looking to take advantage of the confusion about when the checks are coming.
The Verify Team is here to break down rumors and clarify some of the biggest questions people have about these checks.
How much money is being distributed?
Individuals, who earn less than $75,000 will receive a one-time direct payment of $1,200. Married couples, who make less than $150,000 will receive $2,400. Individuals or couples will receive an additional $500 for each child claimed as a dependent.
Individuals who get paid more than $75,000 will still receive a payment, although the payment will drop by $5 for every $100 more they earn. Individuals who earn more than $99,000 will not be eligible for any stimulus money.
How will the IRS assess your income level?
The IRS will be looking at American's tax filings for 2019. If taxes were not filed in 2019, they will instead look at 2018 numbers.
What if you're retired?
Retirees will also be eligible for the check.
Those on Social Security and Railroad Retirement Benefits will be automatically eligible, regardless of whether they filed their taxes in 2019 or 2018. The IRS will use Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099, instead of tax forms.
Those on Supplemental Security Income will not be automatically eligible for the payment, without filing taxes first.
When will we get these payments?
The exact timetable remains unclear. However, those who are signed up for direct deposit will get paid far sooner. Electronic payments, which can be made relatively quickly, are expected to happen in mid-to-late April.
Paper checks, meanwhile, will "start arriving in May at the earliest," according to the Federal Trade Commission.
This timetable also applies for those on Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits, who will receive their check, just as they would receive their typical benefits, whether that's by direct deposit or by paper check.
I typically get a mailed check, but I want direct deposit for this?
The IRS has announced that they will create a web-based portal for individuals who want to "provide their banking information to the IRS online," in order to receive such payments.
As of Thursday evening, this portal still does not exist. The best place to find up-to-date information on this topic is to visit this web-page, where the IRS should announce the portal when it's complete.
How do I know if something is a scam?
The Federal Trade Commission has offered a series of tips, to make sure you don't become a victim to scams, surrounding the Stimulus Checks.
Tip 1: You don't need to do anything:
According to the FTC and the IRS, most of us do not need to take any action to receive our checks. If you filed your taxes in 2018 or 2019, the IRS has all your information. The same can be said about Social Security recipients and those with Railroad Retirement Benefits.
The only people who may need to take action are those who have not filed taxes, and are not eligible for the programs listed above.
Tip 2: There's no 'sign-up'
The FTC didn't mince words on this topic: "Anyone calling to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security number, PayPal account, or bank information, is a scammer, plain and simple."
Tip 3: Setting Up Direct Deposit
Checks are expected to be distributed far faster for those getting direct deposit. For that reason, many who typically receive mailed checks may be attempting to change to direct deposit.
The FTC emphasizes that this type of communication should only be done at irs.gov/coronavirus.
Never share your banking information in response to a phone call, text message, or email.
Did the Verify Team miss any of your questions? Send it to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org