The Criminal Investigation (CI) division of the IRS has recently reported a variety of scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cons involving economic impact payments (EIPs) have been common over the last several months. While these operations are still a cause of concern to the IRS, the CI division is also warning taxpayers about new tax and Coronavirus payment scams. Look out for the following red flags:
Economic Impact Payment Theft
Perhaps the most common COVID-19-related scam being run is the theft of economic impact payments. Criminals can do this in a variety of ways. One common method is to steal a taxpayer’s financial information in order to receive a fraudulent EIP, deposit it into the individual’s bank account, and then call impersonating an IRS employee claiming that there was an issue with the payment and that the recipient needs to wire it back or return it in the form of a gift card. Remember, the IRS will never demand immediate payment or ask that you reconcile any money owed in the form of gift cards or a wire transfer.
Sales of COVID-19 “Cures” or “Treatments”
In addition to stealing EIPs from individuals, criminals are also taking advantage of the pandemic to sell fake cures or treatments for the Coronavirus. Con artists have also been listing medical supplies for sale in bulk quantities, taking payments for these items, and then disappearing without delivering the promised goods.
Another common scam being run is the soliciting of donations to fake charities that supposedly benefit those affected by COVID-19.
If you are approached by someone offering you an opportunity to invest in a company that is working on a vaccine for the virus, beware. Scammers promise a return on low-priced stocks, tricking many people into buy into these phony companies.
The IRS has also seen an uptick in Coronavirus-related phishing schemes designed to steal sensitive information from taxpayers by utilizing letters, e-mails, and links with keywords such as “Coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “stimulus” in a variety of ways. As always, make sure you trust the sender before clicking any links you receive.
Unfortunately, according to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, “criminals seize on every opportunity to exploit bad situations, and this pandemic is no exception.” While it is important to be aware of the criminal operations above, there are also other ways in which criminals are taking advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers. Be sure to read our article about the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” tax scams list for 2020 to learn about other cons you may run into this year. Report any phishing attempts to email@example.com and call to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 for any other suspicious behavior you encounter.
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