DENVER — Authorities are warning residents to keep their guard up against fraudsters attempting to steal federal economic impact payments.
“Criminals think that these funds have become an easy source to line their pockets through deceit, trickery, and fraudulent activity,” warned Andy Tsui, agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division in Colorado.
Payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) are meant to assist residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division said it has seen a variety of scams and other financial schemes designed to steal money and personal information from taxpayers.
A release issued by IRS states: “Criminals are taking advantage of the second round of Economic Impact Payments — as well as the approaching (income tax) filing season — to trick honest taxpayers out of their hard-earned money,”
The IRS and the Treasury Department announced on Dec. 29 that it would begin delivering a second round of payments to millions of Americans.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and Congress are working on a third round.
“We at IRS-CI remain dedicated to finding the lawless that prey on our public and hold them accountable for their actions,” Tsui said in a press release.
Some common COVID-19 scams include:
- Text messages asking taxpayers to disclose bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 payments
- Phishing schemes using email, letters and social media messages with key words such as “Coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “stimulus” in varying ways. These communications are blasted to large numbers of people and aim to access personally identifying information and financial account information (including account numbers and passwords).
- The organized and unofficial sale of fake at-home COVID-19 test kits (as well as offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, pills, and professional medical advice regarding unproven COVID-19 treatments).
- Fake donation requests for individuals, groups and areas heavily affected by the disease.
- Bogus opportunities to invest in companies developing COVID-19 vaccines while promising that the “company” will dramatically increase in value as a result.
- The criminal investigation division said the best way to avoid falling victim to a scam is knowing the IRS does not send unsolicited texts or emails. The IRS does not call people with threats of jail or lawsuits, nor does it demand tax payments on gift cards.
IRS-CI said it continues investigating hundreds of COVID-19-related cases with law enforcement agencies domestically and abroad while educating taxpayers about scams.
COVID-19 scams should be reported to the government’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through its web complaint form.
Taxpayers can also report fraud or theft of their economic impact payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration online at tips.tigta.gov.
Taxpayers who receive unsolicited emails or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, should forward the message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone.
To learn more about COVID-19 scams and other financial schemes visit IRS.gov. Official IRS information about COVID-19 and impact payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page.