Scam Alert: Child Tax Credit Is Automatic; No Need to Apply
It almost sounds too good to be true: Most families with kids will start receiving monthly checks for up to $300 per child this summer, starting in mid-July and continuing through December. And they don’t have to do anything, except perhaps keep the money safe from scammers.
“It’s the fact that people don’t have to do anything that scammers are going to glom onto and say, ‘Oh, yes, you do,’” says Federal Trade Commission spokesperson Colleen Tressler. “If you don’t have to do anything, that just sounds too easy.”
Scammers will say “they’ll help you get the payments faster or earlier, and we know they can’t, or get you more money, which they can’t, or tell you other lies,” she says.
About those checks
The money is an advance on half of the child tax credit for tax year 2021. Families will get the other half when they file their 2021 taxes next year. Or they can opt out of this prepayment and get the full credit next year.
A quick rundown of the child tax credit prepayment, which was set in motion by the American Rescue Plan:
Beware of unsolicited communication
Tressler cautions that the IRS will not email, text, call or direct-message you as an initial contact. You should delete those messages unread. Clicking a link or responding could connect you with a scammer or infect your phone or computer with a virus; it won’t help you get your check any sooner.
Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, agrees: “Do not rely on incoming communications. If you didn’t initiate the contact, don’t engage.” She adds that caller ID cannot be trusted; even if a government agency’s name is listed, thieves may have originated the call and “spoofed” the caller ID display.
Giving sensitive information such as your birthdate and Social Security number over the phone is particularly fraught, she said. Once scammers have that information, they can use your information to pose as you on the IRS site and reroute your money to them. The same thing can happen if you key your information into a site other than the actual IRS one.
What to do instead
Tressler points out that most people don’t need to do anything at all unless it’s simply hanging up the phone and deleting texts and emails.
If you want to opt out of the automatic payments or change your information, you can do it safely at the IRS website. Make sure you are at irs.gov. An IRS child credit information page has links to tools that allow users to make changes or to check to see if they are enrolled. Other tips:
Bev O’Shea writes for NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.
The article Scam Alert: Child Tax Credit Is Automatic; No Need to Apply originally appeared on NerdWallet.