This month, qualifying Americans are starting to receive monthly payments as part of an advance on the expanded 2021 child tax credit. This economic stimulus is intended to help families and the economy rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But millions of direct IRS payments can mean opportunities for scammers. Criminals are looking to take advantage of the child tax credit to trick people into providing their personal data or financial information.

How the Child Tax Credit Payments Work

Families who filed their taxes in 2019 or 2020 automatically receive direct payments as an advance on 50% of the child tax credit. Unlike previous years, they don’t have to wait until they file their tax returns to get this benefit.

Families can receive up to $300 in monthly payments for every child under six years of age and up to $250 in monthly payments for every child between 6 and 17 years of age, from July to December. The payments, in the form of direct deposit, paper check or debit card, are processing on the 15th of every month.

The actual amount you receive depends on your income, number of dependents and other eligibility factors. The maximum benefit goes to those with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for head of household status and $150,000 for married filing jointly. The payments gradually phase out for higher incomes.

How to Avoid Scams

Scammers look to take advantage of families who are anxious to receive their payments. They might impersonate a company that can help you locate your payment or receive it early. Or they might claim to represent the IRS and ask for personal data or bank account information in order for you to get your payments.

The reality is that criminals are trying to get their hands on your personal data or account details. To help avoid child tax credit scams, you need to know the following:

  • The IRS does not make unsolicited calls, texts or emails asking for your personal information. Communications from the IRS only arrive in the mail.
  • If you filed your taxes in 2019 or 2020, you do not need to do anything to receive the child tax credit payments. They automatically arrive via direct deposit, paper check or debit card.
  • You only need to update information with the IRS if your income, number of dependents, marital status, bank account information or address has changed.

To check your eligibility for the child tax credit, manage payments, find information about submitting updated information to the IRS and provide information if you aren’t required to file a tax return but are still eligible to receive a payment, visit the IRS website dedicated to the advance child tax credit payments.