Federal law enforcement encourages the public to remain vigilant to COVID-19 scams

 

Fraudsters continuing to target our most vulnerable

Date: April 22, 2020

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Baltimore, Maryland – Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Washington Field Office are again warning taxpayers to be alert to phishing scams relating to COVID-19 economic impact payments that are already being seen. The community must remain on guard against scammers who are striving to steal personal information and money.

"It is reprehensible that fraudsters try to take advantage of this global pandemic to line their pockets at the expense of the most vulnerable," said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. "The U.S. Attorney's Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to bringing these criminals to justice. I urge citizens to remain vigilant. Don't provide personal information or click on websites or links contained in unsolicited e-mails. Don't become a victim."

"The community is experiencing enough hardship right now without needing to worry about scammers trying to steal the money that they desperately need," said Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson. "IRS-CI, along with our law enforcement counterparts are working hard to protect the public from these thieves. These types of investigations are being prioritized to help protect taxpayers and the tax system"

According to federal law enforcement, many of the scams operated from websites that advertised fake vaccines and cures, operated fraudulent charity drives, delivered malware, or hosted various other types of scams. To attract traffic, these websites often utilized domain names that contained words such as "covid19" or "coronavirus." In some cases, the fraudulent sites purported to be run by, or affiliated with, public health organizations or agencies.                

Neither the IRS nor any other federal agency will call you, text you, e-mail you, or contact you on social media asking for personal or bank account information—even related to the economic impact payments. Recently, there has been an increase in phishing schemes utilizing e-mails, letters, texts and links. These contacts will often come in the form of unsolicited e-mail and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites in an effort to lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. Scammers will often use website names similar to valid ones—for example IRSGOV, IRS GOV, or using extra letters and/or spaces in lieu of IRS.GOV. For example, one fraud involves phishing e-mails coming from "customer_service@FreeFillableForms.com" which directs you to a link that contains "economic impact payment" and uses a company name similar to the Free File Alliance partner you are transferred to while using the IRS tool for Non-Filers. DO NOT click on the link—this is a scam. Other phishing schemes are using keywords such as "Corona Virus," "COVID-19," and "Stimulus" in varying ways.

When visiting a website or when you receive an e-mail containing a link, pay special attention to any web address you are directed to in order ensure it is from a legitimate source. Watch out for emails with attachments or links claiming to have special information about economic impact payments or refunds.

Federal law enforcement is united in its efforts to fight against COVID-19 fraud. If you think you are a victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or email at disaster@leo.gov. If it is a cyber scam, you may submit your complaint through the FBI's website, https://www.ic3.gov. Or you can report suspicious emails to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.