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Beware of COVID-19 Tax Fraud

Senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to the coronavirus. Not only are those 65 and older more likely to die from the virus, but they are also now being targeted in droves by scammers. Due to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) processing and payment delays, scammers are preying on those who are still waiting to receive their stimulus and tax refund money. In fact, the IRS recently issued a warning urging older taxpayers to beware of COVID-19 tax fraud.

Common Scammer Tricks

Over the last few months, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division has seen an uptick in “new and evolving phishing schemes” related to COVID-19 tax fraud. In many of these cases, the taxpayers have not provided direct deposit information on their previously filed tax returns. The scammers call or email these taxpayers, offering to help expedite their economic impact payments (EIPs), if they just provide some basic financial information. This leaves taxpayers not only vulnerable to tax-related fraud, but also identity theft.

Per the IRS, here are some common things scammers will do to get your money:

  • Request that you sign over your EIP to them
  • Ask for your personal and/or banking information by phone, text, email, or social media in an effort to speed up the payment process
  • Promise to expedite your tax refund or EIP by working on your behalf
  • Send a phony check, most likely in the wrong amount, with instructions to call a number to verify or correct the information before being able to cash the check

Scammers will also typically use “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment” when communicating, instead of the official term economic impact payment. 

How to Handle Possible COVID-19 Tax Fraud

Although the IRS is working hard to find those who are committing COVID-19 tax fraud, new scammers are popping up daily. It’s important that taxpayers of all ages remain wary of any unsolicited communications that request personal or tax information. When it comes to EIP, the IRS will not request any information by phone, email or mail. Taxpayers who are not required to file a tax return do not need to take any additional action to receive their payment. The IRS will mail out payments as soon as possible. For those who need to update their address, or provide their direct deposit information, they can do so online at IRS.gov.

If you do receive an unsolicited communication (text, email, or social media) from someone claiming to be associated with the IRS, do not open any attachments or click on any links. And most importantly, do not reply. Instead, follow these suggestions:

  1. Forward the email or social media communication details to phishing@irs.gov; or
  2. Forward any suspicious text messages to 202-522-1226 (standard text messaging rates will apply)

For potentially harmful emails not claiming to be the IRS, but still requesting personal information, forward to reportphishing@antiphishing.org. You can also report any suspected fraudulent activity to your state attorney general’s office. To learn more about dealing with potential tax fraud, visit the Reporting Phishing and Online Scams page on the IRS website.  

Need Tax Help?

Still waiting for your economic impact payment because you haven’t filed your 2018 or 2019 tax returns? Contact Tax Defense Network for a free consultation. We can help you with unfiled taxes, back taxes, and other tax debt problems.