The United States Attorney’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) are warning taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19 economic impact payments.
A number of U.S. Attorneys made the announcement last week in an effort to prevent taxpayers in need from being victimized a second time by criminals using the recently approved payments as an opportunity to commit a crime.
“Despite the uncertainty of recent events, some things remain crystal clear: the men and women of federal law enforcement remain on the job to protect Kentucky families; dedicated and talented special agents of IRS Criminal Investigative Division and career federal prosecutors stand ready to protect the tax payer,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. “Please consult the safety tips to stop fraud before it happens.”
“Ruthless criminals will take this opportunity to prey upon our fears in order to try and line their own pockets by stealing your money or your personal information,” said Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.”
COVID-19 economic impact payments will be on their way in a matter of weeks. For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For the unbanked, elderly or other groups we have traditionally seen receive tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment in this manner as well.
Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or 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. Because of this, everyone receiving money from the government from the COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk.
The United States Attorney’s Ofice offers the following information and tips to spot a scam and understand how the COVID-19 related economic impact payments will be issued.
- 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 tell them that you know it’s a scam, or you think that you can beat them. 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. 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.
Don’t become a victim by allowing criminals to exploit your emotions. Stay strong, tell your family, friends and neighbors about these scams.