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Q: What do Iowans need to know about counterfeit recovery checks?

A: Congress and President Trump included direct cash assistance for most Americans in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The IRS started making $1,200 Economic Impact Payments using direct deposit in mid-April, issuing more than 89 million direct payments within three weeks of Congress passing the law. If the IRS doesn’t have your personal banking information, it will send checks by U.S. postal mail. My office has fielded a lot of questions from Iowans regarding eligibility and arrival of their payments. Note that seniors are eligible for the Economic Impact Payment. For those who don’t need to file a tax return and currently receive Social Security retirement/SSDI/SSI and survivor benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, or the VA Compensation and Pension benefits, the IRS will automatically send payment using the same method by which you receive such benefits. Check here for the updated IRS Get My Payment portal and other frequently asked questions.

Be vigilant about unsolicited emails and websites intended to resemble the IRS. The real IRS will never call you about your Economic Impact Payment. The real IRS will never text or email you about your Economic Impact Payment. The real IRS will never charge you a fee for your Economic Impact Payment. Criminals especially like to prey on the elderly, so if you’ve got seniors in your family, share these three tips. Be sure they know the real IRS will not contact them about their Economic Impact Payment.

Iowans need to protect themselves and their loved ones from getting scammed. The federal government is working to prevent and prosecute coronavirus-related fraud. The pandemic has fostered a breeding ground for criminal enterprise and malicious wrongdoers to profiteer from the public health emergency. From price gouging to counterfeit products and fake recovery checks, the sky’s the limit for bad actors seeking to take advantage of the crisis to fatten their own pocketbooks. Scam artists cook up countless schemes to prey on individuals and fool unsuspecting businesses, including counterfeit checks. The U.S. Secret Service advises Americans to be on the look-out for bogus checks and has issued six features to look for to verify their authenticity. The new Treasury Seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty says “Bureau of Fiscal Service” (replacing “Financial Management Service” in the old seal). The seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty contains a bleeding ink mark that will “run” and turn red when moisture is applied. When held up to the light, text will appear in watermark that reads “U.S. Treasury” legible from the front and back. Any check without this watermark should be suspected as counterfeit or copied. An ultraviolet overprinting invisible to the naked eye will have one of two patterns printed on the check, either four lines of “FMS” or “FISCALSERVICE” bracketed by the FMS Seal or new seal respectively. When exposed to black light, the ink will glow. This fluorescent quality cannot be photocopied. On the back of the check, microprinting shows “USAUSAUSA” that’s visible when magnified and also unable to be duplicated by a copy machine. Finally, located on the front lower left side, ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENT PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP will be printed to the right of the Statue of Liberty. Financial institutions may verify Economic Impact Payment checks using the Bureau of the Fiscal Service Treasury Check Verification Application (TCVA).

Q: What additional oversight efforts are you pursuing to root out fraud?

A: Reflecting the urgency of these unprecedented times, Congress and the president have approved an unprecedented amount of money, to the tune of $3 trillion so far, to respond to the public health emergency and help offset the economic fall-out since COVID-19 reached America’s shores. Importantly, the CARES Act includes oversight tools I supported to keep check on the money pipeline flowing from the U.S. Treasury. As a taxpayer watchdog in the U.S. Senate, my oversight and legislative work reflects a track record committed to holding government accountable to the people and rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. For four decades, I have worked to strengthen and empower whistleblowers and inspectors general (IG) who serve as critical eyes and ears within the sprawling federal bureaucracy. Since the Inspectors General Act of 1978 was enacted, Congress has strengthened the law and expanded the number of internal watchdogs to more than 70 IGs who are embedded in federal agencies across the executive branch. As internal watchdogs with statutory authority to investigate and report to Congress, they not only deter wrongdoing, they hold wrongdoers accountable. Their independence from partisan influence, whether coming from Congress or the White House, is essential to uphold the public trust. The CARES Act created a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to investigate and report waste, fraud and abuse from coronavirus-related federal spending. In this new era of pandemic recovery, it’s as important as ever to have independent watchdogs keeping check on tax dollars so the American people get the most bang for their buck, as Congress intended. In other words, we need nonpartisan IGs on the job to secure government transparency, build public confidence and drain the swamp.

Author: Charles Grassley

Chuck Grassley of New Hartford has represented Iowa in the United States Senate since 1980.