Many Americans are eagerly awaiting the stimulus check from the IRS, but federal authorities are warning that scammers are already plotting to take it.
The stimulus payments will be on their way from the IRS in a matter of weeks. U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick and Acting Special Agent in Charge Rodrick Benton of IRS-Criminal Investigation are cautioning taxpayers that criminals could steal economic impact payments through different methods. They warn that everyone receiving a COVID-19 related economic impact payment from the government is at risk.
“Disasters create openings for crooks and scam artists,” said Patrick. “From phony door-to-door solicitations to complex computer and phone scams, I want people to be alert. Do not give out personal information to people who claim they are with the government. The scum that take advantage at a time like this will find the weight of federal law enforcement on them.”
“While the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, criminals see an opportunity to enrich themselves through fraudulent schemes,” warned Benton. “With the public’s awareness, we can combat these scammers and cease their exploitation of the American taxpayer during these trying times.”
Most Americans will receive the payment through a direct deposit into their bank accounts. Those that did not identify a bank account on their tax returns, elderly individuals or others who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check will receive their payments in that manner.
However, Patrick says taxpayers have already been targeted through phone calls, emails, text messages and other means of communication. Scammers are pretending to be from the IRS. Authorities want taxpayers to be vigilant and on alert to this potential fraud.
Here's what you need to know to protect yourself:
· 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, do NOT 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 you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, DELETE them. Do NOT click on any links in those emails or texts.
· Bogus checks are also being distributed. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, IT’S A FRAUD – it will take the Department of Treasury a few weeks to mail the legitimate checks to taxpayers. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, IT’S A FRAUD.