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Beware of texts saying you got $1,200 in a stimulus check

Berkeley Brean
Created: October 28, 2020 05:19 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There are still people in our community who have not received their federal stimulus check. There are 38,000 people in Monroe County unemployed. And now News10NBC learned there is something showing up in your phone preying on peoples' financial insecurities. 

"He got one. And then about an hour later I got one," Dana Starr said. "And then three hours after that, I got another one."

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What Starr got were text messages saying they've "received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 (Treasury) Fund." The text tells people to click a link to "accept the payment." 

Brean: "When you got those text messages, what did you think?"

Dana Starr: "Right away I thought it was a scam, just out of area code phone number, texting me with a website that had a European address in it."

Brean: "Did you have any instinct at all to just click that link because maybe it was real money?"

Dana Starr: "No. There were so many red flags in there and it seemed so random that I was like—no way."

Someone is falling for it. 

The Federal Trade Commission compiled data on all the COVID-19 related scam complaints. Most have to do with online shopping and travel money. 

But since March, the FTC got more than 5,000 complaints about "unsolicited text messages" and that ended up defrauding people out of more than $2 million.

"It's just sad to see people taking advantage of and preying on people who are feeling a little less fortunate and have no control over their financial situation right now," Starr said. 

Some people are still waiting for their stimulus check. 

Brean: "So you have not received your stimulus check yet?"

Zingerella: "Correct. Neither me nor my husband."

Brean: "And your level of frustration on this is what?"

Zingerella: "Probably about an 8."

Recently, Mary Zingerella of Shortsville, says the IRS called her. 

Brean: "And what did the IRS tell you about this check that you're owed?"

Zingerella: "They said, I have it written down, that yes we are definitely eligible for it and if we don't get it by December 31st there will be a line on our income tax that will take care of the money."

Referring to her notes, Mary says she was told it would turn into a "refundable credit."

Brean: "What is a refundable credit?"

George Conboy, Brighton Securities: "A refundable credit relates to your tax return. It's essentially where the IRS will send you a check or an electronic deposit even if you owe no tax. So even if you're not paying tax or have income, if you file a tax return and you're entitled to a refundable credit the IRS will send you that money."

I contacted the IRS about the refundable credit promised to Mary. In an email, a spokesman wrote "federal law prohibits the IRS from commenting on specific taxpayer matters."

Zingerella: "It's like, come guys. Get this together. You said it was supposed to be out a long time ago Why isn't it out now?"


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