TIGTA joins chorus warning of COVID-19 payment scams
Thursday, April 09, 2020
The Treasury Department says it's on schedule to get coronavirus economic recovery payments to folks' bank accounts next week.
There's even better news for those who want to change the payment's delivery method from snail mail to direct deposit.
Politico's Morning Tax newsletter reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Capitol Hill lawmakers that the online tool that could speed up delivery of the COVID-19 money also will up and running next week.
That's the mechanism that, as I noted in yesterdays' post, whereby folks who've previously received refunds as paper checks sent via the U.S. Postal Service or didn't get refunds at all can upload their financial account direct deposit information so the Internal Revenue Service can electronically deliver the payments.
COVID-19 scams already operational: One thing that's already up and running is, you guessed it, coronavirus relief scams.
The IRS and the ol' blog have already warned about these dastardly schemes right after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act became law and again earlier this week.
Now the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has issued his own COVID-19 bulletin warning of payment-related scams.
Tax committee senator urges scam prevention action: The warning from Inspector General J. Russell George comes after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent the oversight office a letter noting that he's already heard about payment related scams.
Grassley urged George's office to "take every reasonable effort to educate Americans about the ways in which scammers and fraudsters might try to cheat them out of their money and their benefits during this time of unprecedented need."
Russell said in his COVID-19 scam alert bulletin that the relief checks offer con artists yet another way to impersonate IRS officials in order to obtain personal, tax and financial information. Treasury, the IRS and TIGTA have been combating pervasive fake IRS agent scam calls since 2013.
The scams come via phone, phishing emails, text messages and even mailed correspondence. The crooks' ultimate goal is to get individuals to reveal information that could be used to steal not only tax-related payments or refunds, but also the victims' identities.
In addition, the electronic versions can load malicious software onto victims' computers to steal financial and other information.
Don't fall for the cons: "Previous government assistance efforts have been used by crooks and scammers who see this as an opportunity to defraud taxpayers in every way possible," said George.
Criminals in this time of coronavirus chaos are likely to tweak their cons by offering to get you your economic relief payment in exchange for personal financial information. Scammers also might ask victims for an advance fee or other charges, such as payments to the crooks by gift cards. All such promises of help are false.
That's why George reminds taxpayers that when it comes to the COVID-19 payments, the IRS will never:
- call you to ask you for your personal identification or financial information in order to provide you with an economic impact payment.
- contact you and ask you to make any kind of payment using an iTunes card, gift card, prepaid debit card, money order or wire transfer.
- request personal or financial information by e-mail, text messages, letters or any social media platform.
Report the crooks: If you do get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and who asks for your personal identification or financial information in exchange for an economic impact payment, hang up.
If you do owe federal taxes or think you might owe, don't talk with the person making the unsolicited call. Instead, you call the IRS yourself toll-free at (800) 829-1040. IRS employees can help you with your payment questions. Note, however, that COVID-19 precautions that have prompted the closing of many IRS operations could mean you'll be on hold for a while.
And regardless of whether you do or don't owe any taxes, report suspicious tax-related communications to TIGTA via its website. It will provide instructions on reporting IRS-related coronavirus scams.
As for phishing emails, forward them to [email protected] Again, says George, do not open any attachments or click on any links in those e-mails.
I know we all sound like nags here, but some folks still fall for these schemes. And they could be particularly appealing to folks who've been out of work for more than a month now and are facing mounting bills.
I also know it's tempting to grab for any seeming help in such difficult times, but falling for a coronavirus scam will only make things worse.
|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:
- 6 ways to avoid being a tax scam victim
- Gift cards are great presents, NOT to pay the IRS
- No, that is not the Taxpayer Advocate calling in latest IRS impersonation scam
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