Our tax lawyers have learned that an announcement was made this week by spokespersons for the Internal Revenue Service to prevent American taxpayers from becoming victims of swindlers. The latter appear to be popping up everywhere over the past few months. The announcement was made by United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow and the Acting Special Agent in Charge, Tyler R. Hatcher.
The announcement was part of the IRS’s efforts to step up their game regarding warnings to taxpayers concerning financial scams. According to the IRS and special agents, scams designed to steal personal data and money from taxpayers have sharply increased, particularly since the distribution of economic impact payments to low earners. Thieves are not only taking advantage of the approaching filing season, but also of the second round of stimulus checks, and are using these events to try to trick honest individuals out of the money they are owed.
IRS Officials Urge Citizens to Use Caution
In his statement, Muldrow urged citizens to approach emails, texts, and telephone calls with skepticism if the person on the other end is requesting bank account numbers or other personal information while making unrealistic promises about supposed services or funds the taxpayer can claim.
Acting Special Agent Hatcher warned that criminals view stimulus payments and other economic relief efforts as excellent avenues through which to extract information, and waste no time preying on individuals who are waiting or hoping for payments. Hatcher said the Agency is committed to holding such thieves accountable and going forth with criminal prosecution when they are caught. He also urged taxpayers to report any text messages, emails, phone calls or other suspicious methods of contact to law enforcement as soon as possible. The following are some of the most common Covid-19 scams:
- Text messages requesting information from taxpayers for the alleged purpose of depositing $1,400 Economic Impact Payments
- Unofficial sales of “at home test kits” for Covid-19, which are actually fake products
- Fraudulent opportunities to “invest” in institutions that are developing vaccines for the virus, usually promising that the value of the supposed company will increase dramatically if more people invest
- Phishing schemes using social media messages, traditional mail or emails to convince people to give bank account information, passwords, Social Security numbers, and account numbers in order to receive payments. These messages typically contain keywords such as “stimulus,” “coronavirus,” and “COVID-19” in varying combinations
- Fake requests for donations for people and groups that were greatly impacted by the pandemic
The IRS Does Not Send Unsolicited Messages
It is important for individuals to understand that the IRS does not send unsolicited emails or texts, nor does the agency call people to request personal information. When in doubt, a person should contact a qualified tax lawyer for advice about such communications.
COVID-19 scams and other suspicious activity should be reported to one of the following:
- National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721
- Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV
To learn more about scams and fraudulent COVID-19 financial schemes, contact a tax attorney in San Francisco or one of the agencies listed above.
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