WASHINGTON, D.C. - The IRS is reminding taxpayers to guard against tax fraud and other scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government agency says its Criminal Investigation division has seen a variety of Economic Impact Payment (EIP) scams and other schemes over the last few months looking to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers. The division works with law enforcement in the US and internationally to educate about these scams and investigate those perpetrating them.
"Criminals seize on every opportunity to exploit bad situations, and this pandemic is no exception," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "The IRS is fully focused on protecting Americans while delivering Economic Impact Payments in record time. The pursuit of those who participate in COVID-19 related scams, intentionally abusing the programs intended to help millions of Americans during these uncertain times, will long remain a significant priority of both the IRS and IRS-CI.”
The IRS says scammers are using the COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments as cover to steal personal information and money.
Scams related to COVID-19 include, but are not limited to: stealing EIPs from taxpayers, the organized selling of fake at-home test kits, offers to sell fake cures, vaccines and pills, and advice on unproven COVID-19 treatments. Other scams claim to sell large quantities of medical supplies through the creation of fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses where the criminal fails to deliver promised supplies after receiving funds, says the IRS. Some involve setting up fake charities soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by the disease.
Some scams offer opportunities to invest early in companies working on a vaccine, promising the “company” will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.
The IRS has also seen an increase in phishing schemes, using keywords like "Corona Virus," "COVID-19," and "Stimulus" in varying ways. The schemes are sent to large numbers of people in an effort to get personal identifying information or financial account information. Most of these actively play on the fear and unknown of the virus and the stimulus payments.
The IRS says coronavirus-related scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF Web Complaint Form. Taxpayers can also report fraud or theft of their Economic Impact Payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. TIGTA investigates external attempts to corruptly interfere with federal tax administration, including IRS-related coronavirus scams.
Also, taxpayers can always report phishing attempts to the IRS. Those who receive unsolicited emails or social media attempts to gather information that appears 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 the IRS.
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