Date: April 2, 2020
ROANOKE, Va. – The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) are warning taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19 economic impact payments.
United States Attorneys Thomas T. Cullen and G. Zachary Terwilliger, along with Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Washington DC Field Office, made the announcement today in an effort to prevent taxpayers in need from being victimized by criminals using the recently approved payments as an opportunity to commit a crime.
"During this time of crisis, scammers and thieves prey on those most vulnerable in our community in an attempt to personally benefit by stealing their money and personal identifying information," Special Agent in Charge Jackson said today. "Please help us protect everyone in your community by telling family, friends and elderly neighbors to be on the lookout for these potential scams."
"While most act selflessly and responsibly in a crisis like this, there are fraudsters out there who are attempting to scam and exploit good people," said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. "We are likely to see an uptick in government check scams tied to coronavirus-relief, including advanced-fee schemes promising government relief checks, student loan relief, and adjustments in other government benefits, such as increased social security payments. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
"As we have seen over the past few weeks, the worst among us are finding new ways to exploit a global pandemic and prey upon the vulnerable," said U.S. Attorney Cullen. "Americans need to be extremely vigilant in protecting their personal, financial, and tax information. Assume all unsolicited phone calls and emails regarding IRS or COVID-19 refunds and are potentially fraudulent. Do not respond and report them to law enforcement."
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.
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.
Special Agent in Charge Jackson 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 payment 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 your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information to anyone - even if someone claims it's necessary to get your check. It's a scam.
- If you receive a call, do NOT engage with scammers, even if you want to tell them that you know it's a scam. Just hang up.
- If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal identifying information or clicking on links, delete these texts and emails. Do NOT click on any links in those texts or emails.
- Reports are swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a "check" in the mail now, it's a scam. It will take the Treasury 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's a scam.
- Remember, the federal government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get a legitimate benefit. No fees. No charges. Anyone who asks for an up-front payment for a promised benefit is a scammer.
- The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force:
- Western Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Baudinet, USAVAW.COVID19@usdoj.gov or 540-278-1494.
- Eastern Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kaitlin G. Cooke, Kaitlin.Cooke@usdoj.gov or 804-819-5416.
- 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 email@example.com.
- Visit the IRS website at IRS.gov/coronavirus
- FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center or 804-261-1044.
- To report fraudulent activity to the Virginia State Police, Virginians can contact the Virginia Fusion Center (VFC) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For continuing information on the COVID-19 virus and the federal response, check the Center for Disease Control's Coronavirus webpage.