CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECK
WARNINGS AND FINANCIAL PLANNING
Veterans and their family members will automatically receive a Coronavirus stimulus check from the federal government without further action required from them as announced by the Treasury Department and the IRS on April 17th, 2020. This article is not about the Coronavirus stimulus check eligibility, but it is about what Veterans and their family members can do to protect themselves and plan for the financial opportunity that the stimulus check will provide.
SECURITY AND PROTECTION
Safety is always a factor when scammers know money will be transmitted electronically or through the mail to American households. For identity theft protection, it is recommended that you place a security freeze on your credit reports. A credit freeze will lock down your credit report and prevent identity thieves from opening any new credit in your name. Because creditors/lenders must see your credit report before they open/approve a new account in your name, a security freeze will lock out an unknown applicant. Also, you can now check your own credit report for free weekly through April 2021 at annualcreditreport.com. Freezing your credit report and checking your own credit report will not impact your credit score. If you choose to apply for credit, you can easily lift the security freeze. To understand the difference between credit monitoring and credit freeze, see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.
How scammers get their hands on your Coronavirus stimulus payouts and your Personal Identifiable Information (“PII”):
- They may contact you by phone, mail, text, email, and social media and try to get your PII – Name, DOB, SSN, bank account information and/or government debit card account numbers.
- They may try to charge you a fee to get your stimulus check.
The Federal Trade Commission provides the following the four tips to avoid being victimized by Coronavirus stimulus scammers [emphasis added]:
- Only use gov/coronavirusto submit information to the IRS – and never respond to a call, text, or email.
- The IRS won’t contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media with information about your stimulus payment, or to ask you for your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number. Anyone who does is a scammer phishing for your information.
- You don’t have to pay to get your stimulus money.
- The IRS won’t tell you to deposit your stimulus check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That’s a fake check scam.
Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint. Sign up for the FTC’s consumer alerts.
As a Veteran, after you have armed yourself with knowledge and security, ask yourself how the stimulus check can work for you?
Here are possible suggestions if you have qualified for the stimulus check of $1,200, $2,400, and additional $500 dependent benefits:
- Pay Your Monthly Bills – budget the stimulus check and attempt to remain current on your monthly bills (rent/mortgage, food, utilities, and vehicle), if possible, especially if your employer has reduced your hours or you have lost your job due to COVID19. Contact your creditors if you can’t make your payments due to COVID19.
- Pay Debt – this may be an opportunity for you to pay off or pay down debt. Consider using all or part of your stimulus to pay off or pay down debt beginning with the highest interest rate.
- Emergency Savings – Start or increase your emergency savings account for possible unforeseen circumstances in the future.
- By paying down debt and having a savings, you may qualify for a lower interest balance transfer opportunity. However, BEFORE applying for this opportunity, make sure your budget can meet the terms of the transferred debt to a new lower interest account. Also, make sure you understand the terms if you cannot meet the original terms and conditions, for example (1) know all the effects this will have on your interest rate (will it increase and exactly what the rate will be), (2) all penalties, and (3) the financial consequences should you need to add purchases/debts to this account, etc.
- If you do not have debt, maximizing savings’ interest is an opportunity for you to research. You may wish to consider higher yield opportunities for savings – a money market, CD, IRA, an annuity, etc. A personal banker at your financial institution can provide you with the details of the products they offer and you can compare their products with other financial institutions as well.
- This may be a time for you consider the future to include life insurance, children’s education, donations, etc.
- If you are financially stable, have savings, and are debt free – ask yourself how can you enrich your life and have some fun!
These are only some of the possibilities to consider. If you have any questions or would like to meet with Lori Mann, please call 330-564-8030 for an appointment.
April 28, 2020 – For the Summit County Veteran Service Commission by Lori Mann, AFC®, FFC ®