South Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office and IRS-Ci warn taxpayers against fraud schemes related to COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments

 

Date: April 7, 2020

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

MIAMI, Florida — The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), Miami Field Office, are warning taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19 economic impact payments.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael J. De Palma, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement today in an effort to prevent taxpayers from falling victim to criminals using the recently approved payments as an opportunity to commit a crime.

COVID-19 economic impact payments are scheduled to be on their way in a matter of weeks. For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into their bank accounts. For others, it will be through a check that they receive in the mail. 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 payment is at risk.

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."

Special Agent in Charge De Palma 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 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 or texts.
  • 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.

During these unprecedented and uncertain times, our community needs to come together and fight with a purpose. Don't allow these criminals to victimize you by exploiting your emotions during this crisis. Stay connected and inform your loved ones including your family, friends and neighbors about these scams.

"Fraudsters are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to swindle innocent people out of their hard-earned money. My Office and other law enforcers are on the lookout too -- for them. We will not tolerate fraudsters taking advantage of South Floridians during the COVID-19 crisis," said Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

"IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to pursue criminals who violate the law and attack our community. IRS-CI will work diligently alongside the Department of Justice and our law enforcement counterparts to identify scams, stop the con-artists in their tracks and bring them to justice." said Special Agent in Charge De Palma.

For more information, visit the IRS website at IRS.gov/coronavirus.

To report a COVID-19 fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling the NCDF Hotline at 866-720-5721 or sending an email to disaster@leo.gov.