State and federal agencies are warning people about possible fraud attempts related to the coronavirus impact payments to individuals.
In a news release, Special Agent in Charge Mary Hammond of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS CI) warns all taxpayers to be on the lookout. At every level, law enforcement is prepared to vigilantly prosecute any fraud resulting from the COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments, she said.
COVID-19 payments will be on their way in a matter of weeks, the IRS has said. For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into their bank account. The unbanked, such as elderly or other groups who have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, will receive their Economic Impact Payment in paper checks as well.
Hammond said scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or use this as an opportunity to get you to “verify” your filing information in order to receive your money, and then use your personal information at a later date to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Because of this, everyone receiving money from the government from the COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment is at risk.
Hammond offered the following information and tips to spot a scam:
The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information, even if someone claims it’s necessary to get your check.
If you receive a call, don’t engage with scammers or thieves. Just hang up.
If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Don’t click on any links in those emails or texts.
Reports are also swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud. If you get a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents) or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fake.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also noted a few important things about the relief payments:
The government will not ask you to pay anything upfront to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
The government will not ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number over the telephone.
These payout checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
These are not normal times, and scammers are probably already gearing up to take advantage of this, the Division of Consumer Services says.
If you spot one of these scams, report it at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or (en Español) 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832), or file a complaint at FloridaConsumerHelp.com and tell the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
For more information about the federal payments, visit the IRS website at irs.gov/coronavirus.