Date: April 3, 2020
In just a matter of weeks, the Internal Revenue Service will begin distributing COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments. The payment will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most Americans.
For most Americans, the Economic Impact Payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the most recent tax return they filed for either 2018 or 2019. For the unbanked, elderly or other groups we have traditionally seen receive tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment check in this manner as well.
Such good news from the IRS presents an opportunity for scammers to prey on the American public.
"Unfortunately there are fraudsters out there who will attempt to victimize vulnerable people during these trying times", said Michael Montanez, Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI. "Everyone should be wary of swindlers trying to steal their COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment, as well as crooked individuals trying to take advantage of the crisis by tricking people into unnecessarily turning over their personal, sensitive information. All Americans should be cautious in this regard and it is asked that everyone also be on the lookout for the interests of the elderly and other susceptible family members and friends."
"There is no doubt that criminals see COVID-19 as a shining opportunity to scam law abiding citizens," said U.S. Attorney David J. Freed. "While we are ready, willing and able to work with our partners at IRS-Criminal Investigation to prosecute these cases, we can all help to prevent them in the first place by carefully safeguarding personal information and looking out for our fellow citizens. You won't get a call. You won't get an email or text. If you do, it is a scam. Period."
Scammers are looking to defraud the American public in a variety of ways, to include the following:
- Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to 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 two schemes, everyone receiving money from the government from the COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk.
Here are some key things to keep in mind:
- 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 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.
Anyone with information about fraud in this area or any other tax related fraud is asked to please contact Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation at mailto:PhiladelphiaFieldOffice@ci.irs.gov .