The specifics on how and when the Internal Revenue Service will issue the payments created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act have been changing.
First, older filers were going to have to file a special return form to get the money. Now, the Treasury Department says the IRS will use eligible recipients' Social Security information and directly deposit them without requiring any additional action.
However, one thing that hasn't changed in all the COVID-19 chaos. Crooks are trying to get their hands on these payments, which could be up to $1,200 for single taxpayers, $2,400 for married couples who file jointly, plus $500 for each dependent child who is younger than 17.
Taxes are easy COVID-19 scam bait: The IRS-administered economic impact payments aren't the only target of thieves, identity and otherwise. Myriad coronavirus schemes already have appeared.
But the payments offer yet another way for criminals to apply their skeevy skills.
That's why the IRS is officially urging taxpayers to be on the lookout for a surge of tax-related fraud and identity theft calls and email phishing attempts in connection with coronavirus.
"We urge people to take extra care during this period. 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."
The head of the tax agency charged with going after crooks echoed that warning.
"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. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division is working hard to find these scammers and shut them down, but in the meantime, we ask people to remain vigilant."
Retirees are key scam targets: All those Social Security recipients and other retirees are, once again, a favorite target of schemers.
As I noted in an earlier post on coronavirus scams, crooks have been using a Facebook variation that targets seniors by offering a special grant to help pay medical bills.
Now older folks need to be on the lookout for tax versions. Unfortunately, the crooks' efforts have been unintentionally aided by Treasury's reversal of its original decision on how Social Security recipients would get their COVID-19 payments.
Some con artists, hoping that some benefit recipients still think they must take action to get the money, no doubt will come up with schemes offering to help in the delivery process. You don't need the so-called assistance.
Treasury and IRS have back-tracked and clarified that retirees who don't normally have to file a tax return don't have to worry about doing so now to get their $1,200 economic impact payment.
The IRS will use the information on these individuals' SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 forms to send them the COVID-19 payments in the same way they get their benefits, either direct deposit or mailed check.
That means no one from the IRS is going to contact retirees by phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment. The money will be on its way to them automatically and soon.
Everyone needs to be on guard: The rest of us also need to be cautious.
Most of us won't have to do anything to get the payments. Folks who last year filed a 2018 tax year return or who already this year have filed a 1040 for 2019 taxes will get a coronavirus payment based on the latest filing info the IRS has.
And like our senior citizen family and friends, the payments, also referred to as rebates or stimulus checks, will be delivered based on how we told the IRS to deliver our tax refunds for our 2018 or 2019 filings. That's either as a snail mailed paper check or directly deposited into a bank account.
Where the IRS doesn't have a taxpayer's direct deposit information, the agency will mail check to your address it has on file.
Watch out for Coronavirus tricks: We Americans, however, are an impatient lot, regardless of our age. We're always looking for ways to more quickly get things done and get things period.
That urgency applies especially to tax refunds and other tax-related payouts. Crooks know this.
So con artists are likely to soon be contacting potential victims and telling them that they can help them get their money faster. All you have to do is let the caller — or emailer or texter or Facebook or Twitter poster or whatever contact method the schemer uses — work on your behalf to get your money.
They'll get your money, all right, but for themselves, not you. They also could steal your identity and the rest of your cash or credit in the process.
The IRS says other coronavirus 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.
- 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.
Ignore then report scams: If you see or are approached in any of these ways, ignore them. Don't click on bogus links in emails or other messages from people you don't know even if — especially if! — they look to be official. Hang up on callers. Slam doors in the crooks faces.
Then report them.
If you get unsolicited emails, text messages 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 Payment System (EFTPS), forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And then just be patient. Your real, official IRS COVID-19 economic impact payment really will soon be in the mail or electronically transmitted to your account.
|Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we're focusing on just getting through these trying days.
But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here's hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Tax, other scammers take advantage of coronavirus fears
- 6 ways to avoid being a tax scam victim
- No, that is not the Taxpayer Advocate calling in latest IRS impersonation scam