The Internal Revenue Service is advising taxpayers to watch out for scams and phishing attempts that could target upcoming economic impact payments related to the coronavirus.
Taxpayers should watch not only for emails but also text messages, website links, and social media attempts that request money or personal information. These contacts can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft.
“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,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “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.”
The IRS and its Criminal Investigation Division have reported a wave of new and evolving schemes against taxpayers following the passage of legislation to combat the economic impact of COVID-19. The most recent – the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act – will provide payments of $1,200 to most individuals who earn up to $75,000 annually. Other amounts were specified for married couples and children, along with individuals who earn up to $99,000.
In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments into the direct deposit account previously provided on an individual’s latest tax return. The Treasury Department has said those payments could begin to be deposited in the next three weeks. Those taxpayers who have previously filed but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS will be able to provide their banking information online to a new secure portal on IRS.gov, expected to be available in mid-April. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file.
Taxpayers should never provide their direct deposit or other banking information for others to input on their behalf into the secure portal.
The IRS also reminds retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return that no action on their part is needed to receive their economic impact payment.
Seniors should be especially careful during this period. The IRS reminds retirees – including recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 − that no one from the agency will contact them by phone, email, mail, or in person to ask for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment (also referred to as rebates or stimulus payments). The IRS will send these payments automatically to retirees – no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive this.
The IRS said that scammers could:
- emphasize the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment” (the official term used by the IRS 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
- suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf
- 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
Reporting phishing attempts
Those who receive 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), should forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone. Learn more about reporting suspected scams by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page on IRS.gov.
For questions about this or other issues related to new tax-related developments, reach out to a KraftCPAs professional.