Beware of Stimulus Check Scam

Staff ReportsiBerkshires
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NORTH ADAMS — As the first round of the economic stimulus checks start flooding into mailboxes and bank accounts across the country, local agencies — and the Internal Revenue Service — are warning consumers about online scams that ask for personal information to ensure the safe receipt of the money.

E-mails coming from senders who claim to be the IRS request that those wishing to receive their economic stimulus refund fill out a form so the check can be deposited.

"The scam is trying to get personal and/or financial institution account information for identity theft purposes. The IRS and financial institutions will never call or e-mail an individual for personal or financial account information," said Gwen Boillat, the assistant vice president and security officer at Greylock Federal Credit Union.

Many of the e-mails look authentic and even have an IRS banner and copyright information on them.

"Many of these scams involve official-looking e-mails that try to lure recipients into providing data at fake 'IRS' Web sites to get a rebate," said Boillat. "People also are receiving phone calls telling them that they can receive a tax rebate only if they provide bank account information for a direct deposit."

The IRS and Greylock have put scam warnings on their sites and a stimulus payment schedule has been posted.

"Taxpayers do not have to fill out a separate form to get a stimulus payment or have it directly deposited; all they had to do was file a tax return and provide direct deposit information on the return," the IRS site states.

The IRS recommends typing in into your browser rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail or opening an attachment to avoid being rerouted to a bogus site.

Boillat said taxpayers who filed by April 15 through direct deposit will receive their checks the same way and the deposit to the account can be identified as "Tax Refund" issued from Treasury 220. Paper checks will have "2008 Economic Stimulus Payment" written on them.

Anyone who has received a questionable e-mail can forward it to a mailbox the IRS has established to investigate suspicious e-mails:

According to Boillat, individuals with at least $3,000 in qualifying income may qualify for an economic stimulus payment of $300 ($600 for married couples) plus the $300 per qualifying child payment. However, they must file a 2007 income tax return by Oct. 15, 2008, to receive a stimulus payment.

The tax rebates are a result of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 that was passed by Congress in February in an effort to boost the struggling economy and avoid a recession through the encouragement of consumer spending.

To find out when your rebate should arrive, click here.
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