Look Out For Scams Involving Those COVID-19 Relief Payments
Beware of scammers trying to get your personal information or your COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment.
The Internal Revenue Service will begin to distribute COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments this month. This also provides a new opportunity for scammers and con-artists to get their hands on your personal information for identity theft, or to redirect your payment to them.
For most Americans, the payments will be a direct-deposit into your bank account. For the unbanked, elderly or other groups that have traditionally received payouts by paper check, they'll receive their Economic Impact Payments by mail.
Since the payments are based on prior year tax returns, scammers may try to get your filing information in order to divert the payment to them, or to file false tax returns in identity theft schemes. The IRS says everyone receiving an Economic Impact Payment is at risk.
“Taxpayers should be extra vigilant for unsolicited phone calls or emails concerning their economic impact payments,” says IRS agent Justin Campbell. “The IRS will not call or email you about your payment. IRS-Criminal Investigation is stepping up our efforts in coordination with the Department of Justice to aggressively investigate anyone that seeks to defraud our community members during this crisis.”
Campbell says don't give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information – even if someone claims it is necessary to get your COVID-19 Economic Impact payment.
Dawn Wanschneider, Special Agent with IRS Criminal Investigations, adds, "The most likely is IRS impersonation scams. People will either call, text, contact you through social media, and ask you to verify some personal information. That’s just not how we operate."
If you receive a call, do not engage with scammers or thieves. Just hang up. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Do not click on any links in those emails.
Victims may be told a variety of stories to elicit personal information or to convince the victim to endorse their payment check and forward it to the scammers for “payment of past debts.” The IRS impersonation scams tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike – like the new Economic Impact checks being sent.
Reports are also surfacing about fake checks. If you receive something that looks like a check in the mail before April 15th, it’s a fraud. The Treasury Department identifies that date as the earliest that checks will be mailed out. Also, if you receive something that looks like a check that requires you to verify your personal information online or by calling a number, it’s also fake.
Visit www.irs.gov or www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the most up-to-date information.