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How to spot a counterfeit stimulus check: Secret Service, Treasury warn against coronavirus relief fraud

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The Secret Service and the Treasury Department are working together to help individuals protect themselves from counterfeit stimulus checks, as the Trump administration plans to mail millions of coronavirus relief checks to Americans later this month.

The Secret Service partnered with the Treasury Department, the agencies said Monday, in an effort to help individuals who did not receive their stimulus payments via direct deposit to identify their checks, as well as to identify those fraudulent checks that they say could inevitably be floating through the mail system.

“With the implementation of the CARES Act, comes opportunities for criminal activity, like check fraud,” the agencies said in a statement Monday. “The Secret Service and the U.S. Department of the Treasury want to inform citizens and consumers nationwide on ways to protect themselves during these times.”

The USSS and the Treasury Department on Monday released a set of “quick tips” and “genuine security features” for those reviewing the legitimacy of checks mailed to them.

The checks, according to the agencies, will include a “Treasury Seal” placed to the right of the Statue of Liberty on the check. It will say “Bureau of the Fiscal Service,” replacing an old seal, which would have read “Financial Management Service.”

That seal, according to the agencies, will show bleeding ink when moisture is applied, causing the black ink to “run” and turn red.

In addition, U.S. Treasury checks are printed on watermark paper, which will read “U.S. TREASURY” and can be seen from both the front and the back of the check when held up to a light. The check will also have a protective ultraviolet (UV) pattern, which is invisible to the naked eye. If put up to a UV light, an individual can expect to see the U.S. Seal of an eagle, or “FISCALSERVICE.”

Legitimate checks will also have microprinting on the back of the check with the words “USAUSAUSA.”

Finally, on the lower right side of the Statue of Liberty imprinted on the check will read: “Economic Impact Payment President Donald J. Trump.”

“We at the Secret Service and the U.S. Department of the Treasury are working with our law enforcement partners to ensure a unity of effort to disrupt and deter criminal activity that could hinder an effective response to the pandemic, to help vulnerable organizations, and to recover money stolen from Americans,” they said in a statement Monday, while urging individuals affected to contact local law enforcement, a Secret Service field office, of the Treasury Department.

The announcement comes as millions of Americans are awaiting their stimulus checks, which passed as part of the more than $2.2 trillion CARES Act last month.

Tens of millions of Americans have already received their relief payment via direct deposit, though the Treasury Department acknowledged last week that there were several “glitches” in sending payments to some individuals who used popular tax filing services in 2018 and 2019.

Meanwhile, the IRS last week launched an online tool, the “Get My Payment” app, to allow taxpayers to give the agency their direct deposit information to help speed up the coronavirus relief payments to Americans.

The majority of eligible Americans – more than 80 million, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – who filed their taxes in 2018 and/or 2019 and received a refund via direct deposit had received their stimulus relief payments by last Wednesday.

Those who do not file taxes are also now able to go to the IRS website and use the “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” section to enter their bank information in order to receive their payment faster than they would via regular mail.

Some Americans can expect to receive paper checks in the mail, but that method of delivery could take months.

As part of the CARES Act, people who file their taxes as individuals are eligible for payments up to $1,200, and couples who file jointly are eligible for up to $2,400 plus an additional $500 per child under the age of 17.

The amount decreases for individuals who earn an adjusted gross income of more than $75,000 and couples who earn more than $150,000 a year, by $5 for every $100 in income above those marks. This means the payment is less the higher their earnings are, with it being reduced to zero for individuals who make $99,000 or more and couples who make $198,000 or more.

The payments do not count as taxable income. Similarly, they do not count for determining eligibility for federal programs like Supplemental Security Income.

Fox News’ Lillian LeCroy contributed to this report.  

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