IRS warns about COVID-19 economic impact payment fraud

 

Date: March 31, 2020

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Utah – IRS Criminal Investigation wants to ensure you do not fall victim to fraud with the COVID-19 economic impact payments on the way.

For most Americans, the payments will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For those who traditionally receive tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their payment in this manner as well.

"Criminals thrive in times like these and we want to ensure those receiving this payment are aware of these scams," said Special Agent in Charge Tara Sullivan of the Las Vegas Field Office. "IRS Criminal Investigation along with our strong partnership with US Attorney John Huber, will seek to prosecute those taking advantage of our community during these times of distress."

"The U.S.Attorney's Office is aggressively pursuing those who are using this pandemic to commit fraud. We are dedicating significant resources to combat this problem," U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said. "We are also encouraging Utah residents to use caution. Don't give these fraudsters your hard earned money," Huber said.

With any good news story from the IRS, comes an opportunity for criminals/scammers to take advantage of the American public. We will see this in a variety of ways:

  • 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.

It is important for those receiving a check or direct deposit to know the following:

  • 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.

Scams and Schemes

The three most common types of scams that the IRS is seeing are:

  • IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
    • An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
    • Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver's license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an "urgent" callback request.
    • With COVID-19 scams, they may reference your check amount and urge you to pay this fake "debt" with your check. For those who receive an actual check, they may ask you to endorse it and forward to them for "payment of past debts." They will sound convincing and threatening when you question them.
    • Remember: Scammers Change Tactics -- Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round and they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike—like a new check being sent.
  • Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes.
    • Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
    • Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the communications are being reported in every section of the country.
    • When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people's computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
  • Email Phishing Scam: "Update your IRS e-file"
    • The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that appear to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus web site intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction "you are to update your IRS e-file immediately." The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between "IRS" and "gov"), though notably, not IRS.gov (with a dot). Don't get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.
    • Remember, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.

Other Recent Tax Scams

  • Fake emails purporting to contain an IRS tax bill related to the Affordable Care Act. Generally, the scam involves an email that includes a fraudulent version of CP2000 notices for tax year 2015 as an attachment.
  • Telephone scammers targeting students and parents during the back-to-school season and demanding payments for non-existent taxes, such as the "Federal Student Tax." If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested.
  • The IRS has seen an increase in "robo-calls" where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their "tax bill." These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. In the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards.
  • This variation tries to play off the current tax season. Scammers call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.

If you or someone you know resides in Utah or Nevada and has been a victim of a COVID-19 economic impact payment fraud, please report the fraud to IRS Criminal Investigation at lasvegasfieldoffice@ci.irs.gov.

Don't be a victim! Visit IRS.gov for the latest information on new scams and schemes!