Even during these unprecedented times, cybercriminals are still hard at work. In fact, the coronavirus crisis has spawned new scams that prey on individuals and companies in a time of uncertainty and potential financial need.
The IRS urges everyone to be vigilant and emphasizes that schemes can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft. Fraudulent requests for funds and personal information are coming through different ways and media than ever before:
- Phone calls to landlines and mobile numbers
- Email and text
- Social media posts
"We urge people to take extra care during this period. 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," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "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. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information."
Tip-offs to scams: What to watch and listen for
The IRS says these are some of the most common words and phrases used in the latest scams:
- "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment." The official term is economic impact payment.
- A request to sign over an economic impact payment check.
- A call, email, text or social media request for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
- An offer to work on the taxpayer’s behalf to get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster.
- A bogus check in the mail, perhaps in an odd amount, asking the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
Non-financial scams are on the rise, too
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also warns consumers to ignore online ads, robocalls, texts, posts and emails that offer:
- Coronavirus vaccinations or home test kits
- Low-priced health insurance
- Work-at-home schemes
- Information from the Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization
The FTC advises not to click on links from sources you don’t know, not to respond to requests for donations in cash, gift card or wire funds and asks everyone to visit official sites to get the latest information:
How to report
Forward COVID-19-related or other phishing attempts that mention finances in any form to email@example.com. Find out more at the Report Phishing and Online Scams page on IRS.go