Text messages promising $1,200 stimulus checks are actually scams, IRS warns

  • Millions of one-time $1,200 stimulus payments were sent to individuals and families by the government this spring.
  • Now, text messages promising that money are trying to lure unsuspecting individuals into providing their personal financial details.
  • If this happens to you, don't respond and report it to the IRS.

If someone texts you promising a $1,200 stimulus check, it's a scam.

The IRS and a coalition of state tax agencies and tax industry officials are warning individuals who receive such messages not to respond.

The text scam typically reads, "You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account. Continue here to accept this payment …" 

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The link that accompanies the message is a fake phishing URL, even though it may appear to come from an official source like a state agency. It directs people to an imitation IRS site, and then asks for their personal and financial details, including bank account information.

The IRS is reminding people that it does not send these kinds of unsolicited texts or emails. The government tax agency also never demands tax payments via gift cards nor does it threaten people with jail or lawsuits.

"Criminals are relentlessly using Covid-19 and economic impact payments as cover to try to trick taxpayers out of their money or identities," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. "This scam is a new twist on those we've been seeing much of this year.

"We urge people to remain alert to these types of scams."  

If you receive such a text message, the IRS encourages you to take a screenshot and email it to the agency at phishing@irs.gov. Be sure to include the date and time of the message, the phone number from which it came, as well as the phone number that received the text.

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