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Could landlords illegally checking renters’ stimulus status lock folks out of the IRS portal?

(EDITORIAL) It’s wild that landlords are unethically and illegally using the stimulus check portal to check on renters, but could it also be locking people out of the system?

irs payment status

As the IRS begins to issue the coronavirus economic impact payments, AKA stimulus checks, the scammers come out in full force. No, the IRS won’t call you to ask for your bank information. You won’t need to pay anything to get your payment, nor will you need to send back any money to the IRS because you were overpaid. You can check your payment status at the official IRS website “Get My Payment.”

All someone needs is your social security number, date of birth, street address and Zip code. Turns out, anyone with that information can access your stimulus payment status. Some people are reporting that their landlords are checking on their tenant’s status.

A viral post of a text exchange between an Oregon man and his landlord demonstrates that at least one person has used the Get My Payment website illegally.

The situation is being investigated by the DOJ and the tenant is working with a lawyer. Other users posted anecdotal stories about their landlords using the system, but there isn’t any data to know how many people are misusing the IRS’s payment status website.

We don’t know how widespread the problem is. As much as we’d like to believe that people are ethical, there are just too many examples of fraud and scams during any kind of crisis to assume that this may only be a few bad apples.

The system is poorly designed. There’s also no way to know who is accessing your information, nor is there any way to prevent it.

One of the executive team members at The American Genius reports that their family has been getting daily emails from property management reminding them that the stimulus payments are coming and by the way, rent is due. They were called by a leasing agent asking for their SSN and emergency contact information, ostensibly for a “file audit.” The team member declined giving out information over the phone. Because the information is on file in the office as part of the original lease, there is no reason for anyone to request that information. Our team member now assumes that the leasing agent was trying to access the stimulus check portal.

It is worth noting that many people still cannot see their payment status, and never have been able to retrieve it. The IRS has cited technical problems that have been solved, but many people still cannot get any updates, simply seeing this result:

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Because the IRS portal lacks transparency, there is always a chance that perhaps some people cannot see their stimulus status because others have already checked it OR that it has been checked too many times!

Not just landlords, but auto lenders, ex-partners, or anyone that knows someone’s SSN. This could be way off, but the lack of transparency makes anything possible.

No matter what, using the IRS site to check anyone’s stimulus payment status is illegal, even if you don’t get caught.

The IRS site clearly states:

Use of this system constitutes consent to monitoring, interception, recording, reading, copying or capturing by authorized personnel of all activities. There is no right to privacy in this system. Unauthorized use of this system is prohibited and subject to criminal and civil penalties, including all penalties applicable to willful unauthorized access (UNAX) or inspection of taxpayer records (under 18 U.S.C. 1030 and 26 U.S.C. 7213A and 26 U.S.C. 7431).

Tenants may be behind on rent. Some tenants may even be abusing the moratorium on evictions.

Landlords and property managers should have a higher standard when it comes to housing practices. The actions of tenants should not dictate a landlord’s actions. If you’re a landlord, keep your integrity and talk to your tenants about their situation. Don’t use their private information to get information about their stimulus payment.

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If you’re a tenant and suspect that your landlord accessed the IRS, contact a lawyer. The Federal Trade Commission offers this advice about avoiding a scam with your stimulus payment.

Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.


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