The child care tax credit is a good claim on 2020 taxes, even better for 2021 returns
IRS elaborates on delivery of $1,400 COVID relief payments

New COVID relief payment means return of pandemic scams

The third round of coronavirus economic impact payments are on their way. So are con artists trying to convince financially strapped folks that there are easier ways to get the government payments of up to $1,400 per person. Don't fall for the lies.

Us postal service carrier delivering mail_covid19 coronavirus relief checks
Some of the just-approved $1,400 COVID-19 relief payments will be delivered by local postal carriers. Others will get their coronavirus cash by direct deposit or Treasury-authorized debit cards. Be on the lookout for the payments, as well as crooks trying to steal them and your identity.

The latest COVID-19 economic relief plan, officially known as the American Rescue Plan, is law. With President Joe Biden's signature affixed, that means the U.S. Treasury Department can start issuing the $1,400 economic impact payments authorized by the new law.

The process will be the same. The Internal Revenue Service once again will use the latest taxpayer data it has on file and distribute the appropriate amounts to eligible individuals.

The Biden White House says the payments could show up as direct deposits in bank accounts as soon as this weekend. Payments as paper Treasury check or government-issued debit cards will be sent via the U.S. Postal Service .

Delays open door for schemes: Regardless of the delivery method, if you don't get the full amount or don't get any relief money this year, the routine will be the same. You can claim it, if you qualify, on your 2021 tax return when you file next year.

But a lot of folks can't or don't want to wait that long. Crooks and con artists know this. That's why you can be sure they already are gearing up to unleash a new round coronavirus relief money scams.

These scam calls popped up last summer after the first coronavirus economic impact payments were authorized. Get ready to hear from scammers who once again claim they can get you the latest full $1,400 relief amount. They are lying.

Jennifer Leach, Associate Director, Division of Consumer and Business Education, at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminds us that:

  1. The government will never ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. That’s a scam. Every time.
  2. The government will not call/text/email/direct message (DM) you to ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers. Anyone who does is a scammer.
  3. Nobody legit will ever — EVER — tell you to pay by gift card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram. You know who will tell you to pay like that? A scammer.

Health insurance hooks, too: The new law also has some language about health insurance, notes Leach.

The American Rescue Plan temporarily increases subsidies for newly laid-off people and many people buying their own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace.

The same three points Leach made earlier apply here, too. If anyone is contacting you out of the blue in any way with promises that they can help you get or keep health insurance coverage under the latest COVID-19 relief plan, they most likely are crooks.

You'll know for sure it's a scam when they ask for demand payment upfront or request your account numbers.

Beware fake IRS tax and/or COVID-19 calls: Since the IRS is in charge of distributing the coronavirus relief payments, you also can expect that some scammers will pretend to be from Uncle Sam's tax agency.

This is a long-standing scam technique. It just gets tweaked as new laws and situations appear. In advance of the expected resurgence of this scheme, here are some reminders of what the IRS will and won't do.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.

COVID scam warning graphic from IRS

When it comes to unpaid taxes, the IRS generally first snail mails a paper bill to a person who owes taxes. In some special situations, the IRS will call or come to a home or business. But note, these IRS-initiated non-mail contacts are in tax cases with unusual circumstances.

The IRS mailed tax bills will provide information on the specific ways to pay the debt. The agency and its authorized private collection agencies will not:

  • Leave pre-recorded, urgent, or threatening messages on an answering system.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to arrest the taxpayer for not paying, deport them or revoke their licenses.
  • Call to demand immediate payment with a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Ask for checks to third parties.
  • Demand payment without giving the taxpayer an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

Don't be fooled by caller ID that shows what appears to be a federal agency phone number. Criminals can fake or spoof this identifier so that numbers appear to be anywhere in the country or from a variety of local, state, federal or tribal government agencies.

And when the scam is in an electronic form, definitely do not open any attachments, click on any links, reply to the sender, or take any other actions that could put you and your equipment, not to mention your financial and personal data, at risk.

Report the crooked calls, emails, etc.: Instead, report suspicious online or email phishing scams that purport to be from the IRS, Treasury or are tax- or coronavirus payment related to phishing@irs.gov.

Do the same with questionable phone calls. If you get one (or a message is left) from persons who say they are with the IRS or Treasury and you know you don't owe taxes, hang up immediately.  

Then contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the IRS impersonation scam call.

Also report the caller ID and callback number to the IRS by sending the info to the official phishing email noted earlier. On the subject line, enter "IRS Phone Scam."

You can check out more tips on how to avoid scams at the IRS' special tax scams and consumer alerts web page and in IRS Publication 4524, Security Awareness For Taxpayers.

Let the FTC know, too. You can report any types of scams to the Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC also has more on identity theft schemes at a special web page, as well as in the video below.

Don't let down your guard: The bottom line is that crooks and identity thieves will never give up trying to steal your personal info and money, be it from your bank accounts, credit cards, tax refund or COVID-19 economic relief payments.

You've got to be as diligent and don't fall for any of their scams.

You also might find these items of interest:

 

Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2021, we all still are 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.

 

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