As with any time of crisis, vultures swoop to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Now they’re targeting people with fake COVID-19 messaging purporting to be from the IRS. Don’t be fooled, these are attempts to defraud you and even steal your identity.
The IRS says scammers are making calls, sending e-mails and text messages to taxpayers stating that they can receive their coronavirus outbreak impact payment or tax refund early by responding. The agency warns that if you receive a phone call, e-mail or text asking you for personal information so you can receive funds, you should not comply. The IRS will not reach out to you in that way.
Taxpayers should watch not only for e-mails but text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information.
Impact payment phishing attempts
The IRS and its Criminal Investigation Division have seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes related to the $1,200 economic impact payments that the government is paying to taxpayers starting in April. Many of these attempts are directed at retirees.
People that have signed up for direct deposit for their tax refunds in the past will have the funds directly deposited into their accounts. Those that haven’t, can go to the IRS website from April 17 onwards to provide their banking information online on a newly designed secure IRS portal.
The IRS will mail checks to the address on file for people who do not sign up for direct deposit.
Seniors should be especially wary as scammers will often target them during crises. The IRS says retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return do not have to take any action to receive their economic impact payment. It stresses that IRS personnel will not be trying to contact them by phone, e-mail, mail or in person to elicit information that can be used to complete the form on the economic impact payment portal.
The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees, and they do not need to provide any information to receive them.
The IRS informs taxpayers that scammers may:
- Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
- Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
- Ask by phone, e-mail, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information, saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their impact payment.
- Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media, or even in person.
- Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell them to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
If you receive unsolicited e-mails, text messages or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, you can help shut the scammers down by forwarding the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, if someone calls and asks for your information for the payments, the IRS recommends that you not engage with them in any way and just hang up.
For official IRS details on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic impact payments, you can visit the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on the IRS website.