The Internal Revenue Service is urging taxpayers to be on the lookout for a surge of calls and email phishing attempts about COVID-19.
These contacts can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft, the IRS said in a press release.
“The IRS isn’t going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.
“That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don’t open them or click on attachments or links.”
“Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information,” he said.
Taxpayers should watch not only for emails but text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information.
“History has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort.
“While you are waiting to hear about your economic impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it,” he said.
The IRS and its Criminal Investigation Division have reported seeing a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers. In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments into the direct deposit account taxpayers previously provided on tax returns. Those taxpayers who previously filed, but haven’t provided direct deposit information to the IRS, will be able to provide banking information online to a newly designed secure portal on IRS.gov in mid-April.
If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file.
Taxpayers should not provide direct deposit or other banking information for others to input on their behalf into the secure portal.
The IRS reminds retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return that no action is needed to receive their $1,200 impact payment.
In its press release, the IRS reminds taxpayers that scammers may:
• Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
• Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
• Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
• Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
• Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
Those who receive unsolicited emails, texts or other attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, should forward it to phishing@IRS.com