Don’t fall victim to scams targeting your Child Tax Credit payments

Get an email offering to help you sign up for the credits? Don’t be fooled

$15 billion started to hit parents' bank accounts last week with the federal Child Tax Credit, and scammers are already trying to get a piece of it.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you’re a parent who hasn’t opted out of the federal Child Tax Credit program, chances are you have monthly payments coming to you over the next few months.

But as these payments go out, the IRS is warning that scammers might try to exploit the situation to gain access to your personal information and steal money from you and other tax credit recipients.

That’s why the federal agency is urging everyone to be on the lookout for potential scams.

RELATED: First round of child tax credit payments goes out | Why you might want to opt out of the child tax credit program | Who qualifies for the child tax credit?

According to the IRS, scammers might try to fool you with an email, phone call, text message or social media post designed to look like they’ll help you sign up for these child tax credit payments.

So, if you get an unexpected call or message offering to assist with enrollment, be careful not to share personal information, click on hyperlinks or open any files attached to messages and emails.

You can report suspicious emails or messages to the IRS directly through the agency’s website.

“Scam artists use deceit and fraud to phish for your information to get their hands on your money,” said Brian Payne, special agent in charge of the IRS criminal investigation division. “You should be as careful with safeguarding your personal information as you would in choosing a doctor or lawyer.”

Phishing is a tactic used by scammers to fool you into surrendering personal information. An example might be an email that claims to be from the IRS, threatening you with arrest unless you pay a fine.

The IRS has a list of red flags to consider when you receive an unexpected message:

  • The IRS does not initiative contact with taxpayers via email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal, financial or tax-related information.
  • The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. Aggressive calls warning taxpayers about a lawsuit or arrest are not legitimate.
  • The IRS will not call taxpayers asking them to provide or verify financial information so they can obtain the monthly Child Tax Credit payments.
  • The IRS will never ask you for payment through a gift card, wire transfer or cryptocurrency.

When in doubt, remember this: if you’re eligible for monthly child tax credit payments, the IRS will use your 2019 or 2020 tax returns to enroll you in the program. If you didn’t file a tax return, visit the IRS website to check if you’re eligible for tax credit payments.