The third round of monthly advance payments for the child tax credit was scheduled to hit bank accounts Wednesday, given it's Sept. 15.
On the night of Sept. 14, I received this text: "Apply for government pandemic extra stimulus bonus of $1,400."
Of course, the message said all I needed to do was click on the link in the text to "submit your details."
Mind you, there's no such thing as an extra stimulus bonus even if people are talking about getting money now.
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►How to stretch those dollars:4 ways to maximize your monthly child tax credit payments
How much is the child tax credit for September 2021?
Yes, many parents are receiving extra money, thanks to the advance payments for the child tax credit. But again, they're not texting anyone to get it.
Millions of eligible families are currently receiving up to $300 per month for each qualifying child ages 5 and younger and $250 per month for children ages 6 to 17. The monthly payouts run from July through December.
Depending on how many children you have and their ages, you easily could be looking at an extra $500 or $900 a month.
The next round of payments will be Oct. 15, Nov. 15 and Dec. 15.
Many payments are automatic and based on information the Internal Revenue Service has from your 2019 or 2020 tax returns, whichever has been processed already.
►'Alleviate the pressure':How child tax credit payments are actually being used
What the IRS says about the scammers
"Criminals are always changing their tactics but the IRS will never text, email or contact you via social media to say that you can get your money faster," said Luis D. Garcia, a spokesperson for the IRS in Detroit.
If you're worried about owing money, it's important to understand how the IRS operates, too.
"We might, in very rare circumstances, call you," Garcia said. "But in those cases, usually there’s a pile of IRS letters on your desk you’ve been ignoring, and you’re sort of expecting the call."
Another good reminder, Garcia said: "Threats of jail, foreclosure, deportation and such will never happen if you are communicating with the real IRS."
Don't rush out to pay taxes with gift cards, Apple iTunes cards or follow other demands that scammers might make.
Why did I not get my child tax credit this month?
Families who have yet to receive an advance child tax credit could either need to file a tax return or use the non-filer tool at IRS.gov to make sure they receive their money. The IRS said its "Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool" will be available until Oct. 15.
The non-filer tool is for those people who need to report qualifying children born before 2021. The tool is used by families who are not required to file a 2020 tax return, didn’t file one and don’t plan to do so. The non-filer user also must have a main home in the United States for more than half of the year.
The IRS notes that the non-filer tool also can be used by some people who did not get the full amounts of the first and second Economic Impact Payment. But this group is limited to those who are not required to file a 2020 tax return, didn’t file and don’t plan to do so. The tool can be used to "claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit and get your third Economic Impact Payment," according to the IRS.
What if I moved?
The IRS launched a feature in August that allows any family receiving monthly child tax credit payments to update their mailing address at the Child Tax Credit Update Portal via IRS.gov.
By using this feature, the IRS said families that choose to receive their payments by paper check can avoid mailing delays or even avoid having a check returned as undeliverable by updating an address if necessary.
Again, the IRS isn't going to text you. And you don't need to text anyone to change an address.
Yes, everyone would like extra cash
The back-to-bills season is upon us as we're looking at extra spending on school clothes, college tuition and holiday gift buying ahead.
So it is logical that scammers would both play to our spending habits — as well as ongoing news of more money being sent to many taxpayers each month.
In August, I wrote about a scam text impersonating AT&T. That text held the promise of extra money by stating: "We accidentally overcharged your phone bill last month:" And they asked you to click on a link to get the money back.
We need to realize that the crooks want to catch us off guard and get us to click on links without even thinking. They want to gather more information about us or even gain access to our accounts via our smartphones.
Never click on these links. Avoid creating more headaches while hunting for extra cash.
Contact Susan Tompor via [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @tompor. To subscribe, please go to freep.com/specialoffer. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.