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FLORIDA KEYS, April 6, 2020 – With the recent financial stimulus packages passed by Congress to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more scammers are floating to the surface.
The economic stimulus payments related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are scheduled to start going out in the next couple of weeks beginning with direct deposit into taxpayer accounts. Refund checks via mail will soon follow. The Internal Revenue Service is working to ensure proper filters are in place to reduce fraudulent payments. The economic stimulus checks being issued will look the same as a Treasury check (normal refund check) and have “EIP2020” on them.
Scammers may use this as an opportunity to get you to “verify” your filing information in order to receive your money, using your personal information at a later date to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme.
Between these schemes, everyone receiving money from the government from the COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk, so know the following:
The IRS will deposit your check into the direct-deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).
The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information -- even if someone claims it’s necessary to get your check. It’s a scam.
If you receive a call, don’t engage with scammers or thieves, even if you want to 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. Don’t click on any links in those emails.
Reports are also swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud -- it will take the Treasury a few weeks to mail those out. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.
Other scams and schemes:
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
With COVID-19 scams, they may reference your check amount and urge you to pay this fake “debt” with your check. For those who receive an actual check, they may ask you to endorse it and forward to them for “payment of past debts.” They will sound convincing and threatening when you question them.
Remember: Scammers change tactics. Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round and they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike—like a new check being sent.
Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the communications are being reported in every section of the country.
When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people’s computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that appear to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus web site intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between "IRS" and "gov"), though notably, not IRS.gov (with a dot). Don’t get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.
Remember, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.