Date: April 4, 2020
San Juan, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. De Palma of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) today warned taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19, especially in connection with economic impact payments. The announcement is an effort to prevent taxpayers in need from being victimized by criminals using the recently approved payments as an opportunity to commit a crime.
U.S. Attorney Muldrow stated, "Our office and our law enforcement partners are committed to bringing to justice fraudsters who are preying on vulnerable citizens during this unprecedented public health crisis. We will also continue our outreach efforts to make the public aware of scams and frauds. I urge citizens to remain vigilant and to be skeptical of any telephone calls, e-mails, or websites that request personal information or banking information, while promising money or services that seem too good to be true."
Michael J. De Palma Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Miami Field Office warned, "Even as our Nation is enduring a State of Emergency, criminals will continue to engage in heinous acts to further enrich themselves demonstrating no sympathy by exploiting you during your most difficult circumstance."
In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 economic impact payments will be on their way. For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into your bank account. For the unbanked individuals who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payment through the mail. The Treasury Department from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will also be providing assistance to individuals and small businesses via checks and direct deposits.
Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or get you to "verify" your filing information in order to steal your money. Your personal information could then be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Because of this, everyone receiving a COVID-19 economic impact payments is at risk.
U.S. Attorney Muldrow offers the following information and tips to spot a scam and understand how the COVID-19 related economic impact payments will be issued.
- The IRS or Puerto Rico Treasury Department will deposit your payment into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).
- The IRS or the Puerto Rico Treasury Department will NOT call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do NOT give your bank account number, debit account number, or PayPal account information to anyone—even if someone claims it is necessary to get your check. This is a scam.
- If you receive a call, do NOT engage with scammers, even if you want to tell them that you know it is a scam. Just hang up.
- If you receive texts or e-mails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal identifying information or clicking on links, delete these texts and e-mails. Do NOT click on any links in those texts or e-mails.
- There are many reports about fake checks. If you receive a "check" in the mail now, it is a scam. It will take the U.S. Treasury Department a few more weeks to mail out the COVID-19 economic impact payments. If you receive a "check" for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it is a scam.
In these uncertain and trying times, we need to remain vigilant. Please help law enforcement protect your community by telling family, friends, and elderly neighbors to be on the lookout for these potential scams. You work hard for your money, do NOT become a victim of these scams. If something sounds too good to be true, it is probably fraudulent.