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Avoid Federal Relief Payment Scams

The CARES Act, signed March 27, 2020, includes providing stimulus checks for millions of Americans, as well as expanded unemployment benefits, new rules for filing taxes and retirement contributions, and financial assistance for small businesses to help the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, and other consumer protection groups have reported that scammers are already trying to take advantage of consumers by claiming to be from government agencies and asking for personal and account information.

Know that:

  • You don't need to do anything to receive your federal relief disbursement. The IRS will deposit your check into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return, or they'll send you a paper check.

  • The IRS won't call and ask you to verify your payment details. Don't give out your bank account or PayPal account information, even if someone claims it's necessary to get your stimulus check.

  • If RCU reaches out to you, we won't ask for confidential information, such as your card PIN, access code, or online banking password.

What to watch for:

  • Unsolicited messages by phone, email, text, or social media.

  • Government imposters calling to suggest you may qualify for a special COVID-19 grant if you first verify your identity or pay a processing fee. An authentic government agency won't ask you to pay a fee, and they certainly won't ask you to pay using a gift card. And they never communicate through social media.

  • Look-alikes. Scammers will often copy logos to make their emails look "official." Be sure to do your own research to see if a government agency or organization is legimitate. For an official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies, visit If the agency contacting you is not listed, it’s likely to be a scam.

  • Don’t assume an offer in a social media message is from a real friend. It’s easy for scammers to impersonate real people on social media. Call or email your friend directly to verify they contacted you.

How to protect yourself:

  • If you're expecting a check by mail, monitor your mailbox daily to prevent thieves from stealing your check.

  • If you get an unsolicited email, check the sender's email address. If it doesn't include the company name or the name is misspelled, it's fake.

  • Never click links in texts or emails from people or companies you don’t know. If it looks official but you're unsure, hover over the link to see if it's from a trusted company's URL. If not, don't click.

  • Never share your login or account information, Social Security number, or other confidential personal information. Legitimate companies will never request verification of this information in an unsolicited call, email, or text.

  • Remember to do business only with people and organizations you know and trust. To avoid fraudulent charities, consider focusing on local organizations that you're familiar with, rather than national relief efforts.

  • Don’t be tempted by offers for loans or fast money from companies or individuals you’ve never heard of. If you need financial assistance, contact your trusted financial institution and work with your debtors directly to get help.

  • Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, IT IS.

For more tips on avoiding common scams and fraud, visit our online security center.