IRS warns against COVID-19 fraud; other financial schemes  

The Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers to guard against tax fraud and other financial scams related to COVID-19.

In the last few months, the IRS Criminal Investigation division has seen a variety of federal Economic Impact Payment (EIP) scams and other financial schemes looking to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers. The division continues to work with law enforcement agencies domestically and abroad to educate taxpayers about these scams and investigate the criminals perpetrating them during this challenging time.

“Criminals seize on every opportunity to exploit bad situations, and this pandemic is no exception,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

According to the IRS, criminals are continuing to use the COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments as cover for schemes to steal personal information and money. Scams related to COVID-19 are not limited to stealing federal payments from taxpayers, however. There have been reports of organized selling of fake at-home test kits, offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, pills and advice on unproved treatments for COVID-19. Other scams purport to sell large quantities of medical supplies through the creation of fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses where the criminal fails to deliver promised supplies after receiving funds.

There are also COVID-19 related scams involve setting up fake charities soliciting donations for individuals, groups and areas affected by the disease. Some criminals are offering opportunities to invest early in companies working on a vaccine for the disease promising that the “company” will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.

Finally, the IRS has also seen a tremendous increase in phishing schemes utilizing emails, letters, texts and links. These phishing schemes are using keywords such as “Corona Virus,” “COVID-19,” and “Stimulus” in varying ways. These schemes are blasted to large number of people known by the bad actors in an effort to get personally identifying information or financial account information to include account numbers and passwords. Most of these new schemes are actively playing on the fear and unknown of the virus and the stimulus payments.

Coronavirus-related (COVID-19) scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF Web Complaint Form. The NCDF is a national coordinating agency within the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division dedicated to improving the detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct related to natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies, such as the coronavirus (COVID-19). Hotline staff will obtain information regarding your complaint, which will then be reviewed by law enforcement officials.

Taxpayers can also report fraud or theft of the Economic Impact Payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Reports can be made online at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV. TIGTA investigates external attempts to corruptly interfere with federal tax administration, including IRS-related coronavirus scams.

Also, taxpayers can always report phishing attempts to the IRS. Those who receive unsolicited email or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax System (EFTPS), should forward it to phishing@irs.gov. Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone.

Learn more by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page on IRS.gov. Official IRS information about the COVID-19 pandemic and economic impact payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on IRS.gov, which is updated frequently.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.