If you are anything like the rest of the country, this past week you have been waiting on your stimulus check. The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by the President last month guarantees cash payments to Americans to provide economic relief.

Estimated to total around 300 billion dollars, the payments are a one-time infusion meant to help ease the burden for struggling families. Individuals making up to $75k a year can expect a payment of $1,200 while couples making up to $150k a year can expect a payment of $2,400 plus $500 per child. After that, the payments are reduced for individuals making up to $99k and couples making up to $198k.

As these checks began to appear in bank accounts this past week, online banking struggled to keep up with the server demand. Many online banking websites and apps crashed from the overload of people checking their accounts to see if their payments had arrived.

It’s not unusual for online infrastructure to fail in this way. Most websites and apps are designed to handle a steady, but not overwhelming, flow of traffic. Anytime they encounter a surge things tend to get a bit…wonky, for lack of a better term. This is why DDoS attacks are so effective.

A DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack is a malicious disruption of a server, network or service committed by flooding the target with traffic. Essentially, these attacks create “traffic jams” on websites that cause them to become overwhelmed and crash. A similar effect was achieved last week when everyone tried logging into their bank accounts, the service was overwhelmed by the flood of traffic and couldn’t function the way it was designed.

For most people this resulted in an error when they attempted to login to their bank’s online system. Some banks fared better than others, and some sent out alerts to their customers letting them know about the backlog. But if you were left frustratedly scratching your head last week when you couldn’t check your account, this is likely the reason.

Thankfully, there is another way to track your refund. Last week the IRS launched an online tracker to help individuals keep up with where their check was and when it might arrive. It provides more information than a simple check of your bank account such as the status of your payment, your payment type and whether or not the IRS needs more information to deliver your payment.

To access the website visit irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment. The website can also help you with frequently asked questions like who is eligible, how to avoid scams and what to do if you aren’t sure if you’re getting a payment.

There is a lot of misinformation online right now about the stimulus payments, much of it being propagated on social media. Remember the golden rule about anything you read online “always check your sources.” The IRS website is a trusted source for learning about stimulus payments, a Facebook meme is not.

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