The Internal Revenue Service received a record number of complaints in June and July 2021 about Economic Impact Payments scams that have not occurred in more than a decade.
“The fraud related to Economic Impact Payments has increased dramatically. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to prosecuting these scammers, ”said Ryan Korner, Special Agent in charge of the IRS CI Field Office in Los Angeles. “For those who are stealing from the American public and using a stimulus plan to help those affected by COVID-19, watch out … you will be caught and held accountable.”
Phishing scams attempt to mirror legitimate IRS communications in order to convince unsuspecting taxpayers to enter personal information or make a payment. This information is then exploited by fraudsters.
Recent fraud reports include:
• Text messages stating that a taxpayer is eligible for an “Incentive Payment” and must click a link to complete the information required to claim it.
• Phishing emails claiming that the IRS calculated a taxpayer’s “tax activity” and that they are eligible for an Economic Impact payment of a certain amount.
Although criminals are constantly changing their tactics, taxpayers can protect themselves by acting as a first line of defense. The best way to avoid falling victim to fraud is to know how the IRS communicates with taxpayers. The IRS does not send unsolicited text messages or emails. The IRS does not threaten individuals with jail or lawsuits, nor does it require tax payments on gift cards or through cryptocurrency.
Taxpayers should watch out for grammatical, upper / lower case and spelling errors in emails and texts, which serve as indicators of fraud. Taxpayers should also be careful when clicking on shortened URLs as it can lead to fraudulent websites.
Taxpayers who receive unsolicited emails or attempts on social media to collect information that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely related to the IRS should forward the message to [email protected]. Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential fraudsters.
Taxpayers can report fraud or theft of their Economic Impact Payments to the Financial Inspector for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Reports can be made online at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV. If you suspect that you may have been a victim of identity theft as a result of fraud, read the Taxpayers Guide to Identity Theft to learn what steps to take. To learn more about COVID-19 fraud and other financial programs, visit IRS.gov.
Submitted by Ma Nancy, Internal Revenue Service