It's no surprise that bad people take advantage of bad situations. That's why as we continue to cope with COVID-19, pandemic-related scams — tax and otherwise — proliferate.
The latest coronavirus tax scam arrives via a text message.
COVID-19 text scam warning: It was created by thieves who are trying to trick people into disclosing bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment (EIP), according to the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners.
This scam's text message tells recipients:
"You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account. Continue here to accept this payment …"
The text includes a fake web link, which appears to come from a state agency or relief organization. Once at that phishing URL, you'll see a phony website that that impersonates the IRS.gov Get My Payment page.
That's where the crooks ask their victims to enter their personal and financial account information. Then they're off, stealing your identity, money and peace of mind.
Report the text scam: So if you get this text, ignore it. It is not real.
Neither the IRS nor state agencies will ever text taxpayers asking for bank account information so that an EIP deposit may be made.
Instead, if you get this COVID-19 tax stimulus scam text, alert the IRS.
Take a screen shot of the text message and then send it in an email to email@example.com with the following information:
- The date, time and time zone that you received the text message,
- The number that appeared on your Caller ID, and
- The number (your number) to which the text message was sent.
Apply for COVID-19 relief directly: If you believe you are eligible for coronavirus stimulus money — which could be as much as $1,200 per person, double that for a married couple filing a joint tax return, along with $500 for qualifying dependent children — and haven't yet received it, you need to apply for the money directly.
That's where you can send the IRS all the info, securely and for real, that will let the agency know where and how to send you your COVID-19 EIP.
And do so soon. You must apply for the coronavirus cash by Nov. 21.
If you miss this deadline, you'll have to wait until next tax season in 2021 to apply for the COVID-19 relief credit by filing a tax return.
Existing tax scams continue, too: COVID-19 is just the latest hook for criminals to try to steal our money and more. Don't fall for any other tax scams that are still out there.
This includes the persistent telephone scam, where IRS impersonators are still ringing up folks and threatening to file lawsuits or them people to jail if they don't pay tax bills immediately. In this scheme, the criminals usually ask for the payments to be sent as prepaid gift cards.
Also, remember that in addition to not texting people out of the blue as with this new COVID-19 relief payment scam, the IRS doesn't send unsolicited emails.
"Criminals are relentlessly using COVID-19 and Economic Impact Payments as cover to try to trick taxpayers out of their money or identities," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in announcing the text scam. "This scam is a new twist on those we've been seeing much of this year. We urge people to remain alert to these types of scams."
Beware questionable COVID-19 treatments, too: The commish is right. The best advice is to ignore all these tax phishing attempts, regardless of the forms they take.
Also, don't fall for other deceptive COVID-connected schemes.
As soon as the virus started spreading across the United States, unsupported prevention or treatment claims also started showing up nationwide.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been monitoring such COVID-19 claims, cracking down on the unsubstantiated products or services. So far, the agency has sent warning letters to more than 330 manufacturers and sellers who've made questionable coronavirus representations.
The FTC letters alert the companies that one or more of their coronavirus efficacy claims are not supported by scientific evidence, therefore violating the FTC Act. The recipients are told to immediately stop making all claims that their products can prevent or treat COVID-19, and to notify the Commission within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency's concerns about the products' marketing.
If the false claims continue, the FTC could seek a federal court injunction and an order requiring money be refunded to consumers.
Last week, 20 more warning letters about unproven COVID-19 treatments were delivered. You can check out this latest group to get an FTC warning in the agency's announcement.
Those 20 companies, along with the tax text scam, earn this weekend's By the Numbers [dis]honors.
No quick relief: Unfortunately, not enough folks ignore the scams, tax or otherwise. So crooks and con artists keep using these ploys because too many folks still fall for the cons.
I get it, especially during this extraordinarily trying time. People desperately need financial help. They also want to keep themselves and their families safe from COVID-19.
But right now, there are no easy answers. And falling for any of these schemes will only make things worse.
You also might find these items of interest:
- 6 ways to know your COVID-19 check is real
- The latest COVID-19 risk? Scams to steal relief money
- Don't fall for these 4 common COVID-19 payment scams
|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.